Crisis Under Critique: How People Assess, Transform, and Respond to Critical Situations 9780231555487

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Crisis Under Critique




Amy Allen, General Editor New Directions in Critical Theory presents outstanding classic and contemporary texts in the tradition of critical social theory, broadly construed. The series aims to renew and advance the program of critical social theory, with a particular focus on theorizing contemporary struggles around gender, race, sexuality, class, and globalization and their complex interconnections. For a complete list of titles, see page 439.


Didier Fassin and Axel Honneth E D I TO R S

Columbia University Press New York

publication supported by a grant from The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven as part of the Urban Haven Project

Columbia University Press Publishers Since 1893 New York Chichester, West Sussex Copyright © 2022 Columbia University Press All rights reserved Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Fassin, Didier, editor. | Honneth, Axel, 1949- editor. Title: Crisis under critique / edited by Didier Fassin and Axel Honneth. Description: New York : Columbia University Press, [2022] | Series: New directions in critical theory | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2021036382 (print) | LCCN 2021036383 (ebook) | ISBN 9780231204323 (hardback) | ISBN 9780231204330 (trade paperback) | ISBN 9780231555487 (epub) Subjects: LCSH: Social conflict. | Crises. | Critical theory. Classification: LCC HM1121 .C775 2022 (print) | LCC HM1121 (ebook) | DDC 303.6—dc23/eng/20211022 LC record available at LC ebook record available at

Columbia University Press books are printed on permanent and durable acid-free paper. Printed in the United States of America Cover image: © Rashid Johnson. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Martin Pasekian Cover design: Lisa Hamm




Introduction: The Heuristic of Crises: Reclaiming Critical Voices 1 DIDIER FASSIN AND AXEL HONNETH


1. Capitalism Contested: Britain in the Aftermath of World War I



2. Striking a Rock with Eggs: Resistance and Repression After Tiananmen 32 ROWENA XIAOQING HE

3. Undoing the Rule of Market Laws: Social Critique and the Making of Normative Futures 54 RODRIGO CORDERO

4. “Layoffs Are Murder, but They Are Also Everyday Life”: A Critique of Labor and Living in the Era of Ghost Capital 76 HAE YEON CHOO

5. Remaking the Demos “from Below”? Critical Theory, Migrant Struggles, and Epistemic Resistance 97 ROBIN CELIKATES

vi Contents


6. Peace, or the Moral Economy of War: Between W. E. B. Du Bois and Sayyid Quṭb 123 MURAD IDRIS

7. Personal Pronouns and Political Protest: Henry David Thoreau and Ta-Nehisi Coates as Critics in Times of Crisis 145 DIETER THOMÄ

8. Becoming Anticolonial in Northern Namibia, 1950–1954: The Emergence of Both Crisis and Critique from Everyday Interpretations 166 GREGOR DOBLER

9. How Do Technocrats Address Crises? From Structural to Humanitarian Approaches to Crises in Latin American Developmentalism 191 ALDO MARCHESI

10. Against Crisis: Violence and Continuity in Manus Island Prison 211 ANNE McNEVIN


11. Love Trumps Hate: Community Caretaking in an Era of Mass Deportation 235 DENISE BRENNAN

12. Helping Refugees in Rural Germany: Ambivalences of Compassion



13. Toward a Theory of Climate Praxis: Confronting Climate Change in a World of Struggle 271 DANIEL ALDANA COHEN AND DAVID BOND

14. The Discovery of Contamination: Forever Chemicals and the Temporality of Critique 293 DAVID BOND

15. Democracy Without Demos: The Disappearance of the Working Class and the Rise of Abstention in French Political Life 310 ANNE-CLAIRE DEFOSSEZ

Contents vii


16. New Technologies and the Moral Economy of White Nationalism HECTOR AMAYA

17. “The Only Way Out Is Through”: Anthropology as Critical Praxis in Times of Crisis 354 MUNIRA KHAYYAT

18. Social Movements and Social Theory



19. The Invisible Rebellion: Working People Under the New Capitalist Economy 387 AXEL HONNETH

20. Conspiracy Theories as Ambiguous Critique of Crisis DIDIER FASSIN

Contributors 421 Index 425





ver the course of one year, the authors of the present book worked together in seminars and exchanged ideas informally in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study as part of a special program on Crisis and Critique coordinated by Didier Fassin and Axel Honneth and supported by the Nomis Foundation. Two subsequent workshops tightened the coherence of the project. The editors are thankful to the two reviewers of a first version of the volume for their suggestions and express their gratitude to Donne Petito and Laura McCune for organizing the meetings and to Munirah Bishop for her careful preparation and revision of the manuscript.

Crisis Under Critique


Introduction The Heuristic of Crises: Reclaiming Critical Voices DI DI E R FASSI N AN D AX E L H O NNET H


e live in a time of crises. Or rather, we live in a time when our dominant representation of the world is one of crises. Think of the health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic and the social and economic crisis resulting from it, the environmental crisis related to global warming and its consequences, the refugee crises recently experienced in Europe but also South Asia, the humanitarian crises affecting places torn by civil wars from Syria and Afghanistan to Yemen and Sudan, and the political crises that threaten democratic processes in Brazil and Egypt as well as Hungary and Israel, among others. Some of these crises emerge from specific events that reveal broader issues, such as the announcement of the limitation of cash withdrawal in Argentina, the suicide of a street vendor in Tunisia, the rape of a female student in India, the killing of a black man by the police in the United States, the proposal of a bill extending extradition agreements in Hong Kong, the accidental explosion of stored chemical products in Lebanon, or the yellow vests movement after an increase in gas taxes in France. Others emerge less dramatically from gradual and profound transformations in gender relations, sexual models, racial belonging, cultural identity, the legitimacy of politics, the regulation of finance, the division of labor, the distribution of resources, the status of knowledge, the foundations of morality, and more. The language of crisis to account for such phenomena is ubiquitous. However, with its extraordinary heterogeneity, which evokes Borges’s humorously fictitious taxonomy of the animal kingdom in his essay “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins,” this catalogue seems to challenge any theoretical appraisal of what crises are and what they express. In fact, it would even appear

2 Introduction

senseless if it did not precisely call our attention to the paradoxical normalization of the language of crisis—paradoxical because a crisis is supposed to be a rupture in the normal order of things. How could it therefore be normalized to the point of becoming a descriptor of so many different situations? How could crises be the new norm? There is an intellectual dilemma here. On the one hand, crises cannot be taken for granted. Their self-evidence must be questioned. The inflation of the term and of the state of affairs it pertains to invites us to critically examine what is at stake in the very designation as such of social phenomena. Which facts are deemed crises, and which ones are not? Who has the authority to declare that a given situation is a crisis, and who does not? What benefits are gained and what agendas are hidden in such interpretation? These are crucial questions to be formulated. On the other hand, crises cannot be dismissed as purely social or mental constructions. They often manifest serious issues, even if these issues need to be reviewed. The gravity of the circumstances to which they refer most of the time requires a critical scrutiny of what they signal. Which criteria are used to decide on a crisis? What practical consequences derive from this decision? What meaning can be attributed to such reading of events? Again, these interrogations must be answered. In sum, we have to navigate between the two classic philosophical pitfalls of nominalism and realism. To escape this predicament, we have, in this collective volume, reoriented the habitual approaches to crises. We do not ask what they are and what they denote from an outsider’s perspective, but instead what insiders see in situations designated as crises, how they apprehend them, how they participate in them, and how they respond to them. We ask what sort of critique people produce in critical situations—and these people can be workers, peasants, students, refugees, technocrats, intellectuals, scientists, or the general public. This epistemological shift displaces the analysis from the diagnosis of crises, on which most studies focus, either to validate or to refute their existence, to what we can call a heuristic of crises. We try to understand what sort of knowledge is generated through the assessment of, and reaction to, specific critical situations by those involved. Indeed, a crisis has often two complementary effects. First, it can reveal to the people concerned some structures and conditions of society that until then were not perceived or not articulated, although it should be emphasized that, in the contexts of domination, often this revelation is not one for those affected, but instead for the rest of society, which had hitherto been blind to these circumstances. Second, it allows these people to resignify and reevaluate those now accessible structures and conditions, and their relations to them, as the appropriation of these new social terms then serves to initiate political change. The world

Introduction 3 

in the aftermath of the crisis, and frequently even in the course of it, is therefore different not only because of the objective transformations that it brings about, but also—and this is what interests us the most—because of the subjective modifications emanating from the critical examination of the critical situation. In this sense, we can say that a crisis is a co-production involving multiple social agencies. It is not the case that crises merely happen and that people subsequently act in response. The way people interpret crises—exaggerate, minimize, or deny them and cope with, protest against, or resolve them—gives shape to what these crises come to be, and in return, dialectically, these crises affect the fate of those involved. The contributions to the present volume thus concur in the intent to study how situations lived as critical are simultaneously socially produced and socially productive. To be sure, none of us presupposes that a crisis is simply a given, even if it almost always has some actual grounds. Whether a certain irregularity or disturbance within social life is perceived as a crisis depends on how the various concerned groups analyze the situation and judge its consequences for the entire society, which can be local, national, or global, often with discordant or even conflicting views. Therefore, it is one effect of the interpretative efforts made either within social movements, by affected individuals, or through intellectual interventions—to mention the agencies involved in our volume—to contest the signification of a historical moment as a crisis, or on the contrary, to successfully impose its representation as such. Both possibilities open up various options for uncovering veiled conditions, although crises can also conceal problems and divert public attention from significant issues. Crises can indeed be interpreted in opposite ways, since what some regard as a crisis can correspond to normal life for others, while what is perceived as normal by some may appear to be a devastating experience for others. Such a critique thus fosters new forms of narratives, theories, and worldviews. But it also creates new emotional, sensorial, and physical experiences. Remarkably, it is inscribed in multiple temporalities, or better said, it plays with the various dimensions of time. A crisis is unquestionably anchored in the present, with the evident risk of presentism, and even in the most immediate present it creates a sense of urgency, with the reduction of complex configurations necessitating structural responses to simple situations calling for emergency reactions. But the past is also mobilized, as the critical situation awakens buried memories, reveals obscured continuities, or reminds people that things could have been different from what they actually are. And the future is always at stake, whether it is darkened by dystopic imaginaries or enlightened by bright horizons of expectation.

4 Introduction

Although the present is overwhelming in such situations, both past and future carry the potentiality of revolutionary alternatives, or at least an awareness of other possible courses of action. Crises thus have various semantic, cognitive, affective, physical, and temporal layers, which renders their reading complex and yet never complete.

Each chapter of the book attempts to account for this complexity and incompleteness in a specific context, with case studies covering crises in Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, North and Latin America, and Europe, and bringing together anthropologists, sociologists, historians, economists, philosophers, and political scientists. These case studies endeavor to reclaim the voices of those who, collectively or individually, whether directly or indirectly involved, as intellectual figures or ordinary citizens, respond to situations regarded as crises. The first part focuses on the role of social movements in critical situations. In her study of shop stewards’, miners’, and builders’ protests in Britain from 1918 to 1921, Clara Mattei explores an almost forgotten and today hardly imaginable episode when workers challenged capitalism, as the First World War had revealed the weaknesses of laissez faire and the need for state intervention, and requested a complete reform of the system of production and remuneration through the creation of workshop committees, the tentative nationalization of mines, and the development of building guilds, in each case with mixed final outcomes. In a more dramatic context, after the massacre at the peaceful sit-in on Tiananmen Square by the Chinese military in 1989, several groups were formed to preserve the memory of these events, endorse their political legacy, and claim justice for their victims, four of them being the object of the research carried out by Rowena Xiaoqing He, who explains through the concept of Confucian dissent that both the initial mobilization and the groups subsequently constituted were loyal to the regime, which they attempted to change from within, at the cost of harsh punishment and sometimes of the loss of their life, as in the case of the Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. In his inquiry into the 2011 uprising of Chilean students for free public education, Rodrigo Cordero shows that this movement, which started in response to the belated payment of the meager monthly stipend and the selling of a small university to an investment fund, progressively discovered that the default on the students’ debts and the marketization of their education were inherited from a constitution voted under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and still not replaced more than a decade after its fall, which led the protesters to question the very existence of democracy. Following the eleven-year struggle

Introduction 5 

of laid-off workers of Ssangyong Motors from 2009 on, as the company changes hands from a South Korean corporation to a Chinese venture capital and later to an Indian conglomerate, Hae Yeon Choo delves into the cynical logics of companies that deal with their workers as disposable, not expressing compassion about the thirty suicides related to the dismissals and even relying on the state’s repressive apparatus to subdue those on strike, but she also describes the clearheaded and creative responses of workers and unions to their ordeal. It is the activism of migrants and refugees in Europe during the summer of 2015, when many of them fleeing war, persecution, and poverty were blocked in Hungary before they could continue their journey to Germany, that Robin Celikates addresses, discussing the way in which they were not only the victims of the closure of borders by governments but also the producers of a critical situation that called for a solution. Crisis of capitalism in Britain, of democracy in the United States, of the regime in China, of education in Chile, of labor in South Korea, of hospitality in Europe: all these crises are unveiled and even precipitated by social movements, which, through their critique in acts, propose, more or less explicitly, with more or less success, alternatives to failed and flawed systems that are not living up to their supposed norms and values. The second part turns to intellectual engagements, moving from collectives to individuals, including famous authors and hardly known characters, suggesting unexpected parallels between figures distant in time or space and discussing not only progressive voices but also reactionary ones. Boldly bringing together W. E. B. Du Bois and Sayyid Quṭb, two contemporaneous thinkers never made to converse, Murad Idris analyzes how, from their distinct perspectives, the African American sociologist of race and the Egyptian Islamist theorist of jihad converge in their view that peace is conceived of in such a way that its racialized and colonial structure is paradoxically facilitating the potentiality of war, whether this war is one of oppression and conquest or of revolt and emancipation, whether it is within national boundaries or exported remotely in Africa or Korea. No less original is the parallel imagined between two authors who inhabit the same country but in different periods, Henry David Thoreau and Ta-Nehisi Coates, to whom Dieter Thomä dedicates his reflection, arguing that despite their many dissimilarities, they share a common use of the first person to express their critique of society and speak to their readers, which situates them neither as detached nor as concerned critics, in other words, neither as they nor as we, but as interfering ones, in other words I, being simultaneously observers of and participants in the world. Another unusual combination is proposed by Gregor Dobler, in this case with a unity of time and space, between an evangelist

6 Introduction

preacher, Cleophas Johannes, and an Anglican priest, Theophilus Hamutumbangela, both living in the 1950s in what is today Namibia, the former having written a letter to the South African administrator to call for justice after the murder of his brother by two white farmers, the latter being the author of a petition to the United Nations for the latter protesting against rampant apartheid under the increasing influence of South Africa, both initiatives representing the simultaneous emergence of the recognition of a crisis and the possibility of a critique. Although atypical figures of intellectuals, technocrats can also play a role in the uncovering and interpretations of critical situations, as Aldo Marchesi demonstrates through the example of Juan Pablo Terra, an Uruguayan expert in developmentalism who, as his country faced more or less similar economic difficulties, growing inequalities, and housing problems, analyzed the crisis in structural terms calling for long-term transformations in 1955 and with a pragmatic approach implying contingent solutions in 1982, thus showing the work of the ideological context in distinct historical moments. In Anne McNevin’s contribution, an improbable intellectual engagement is the case of Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian journalist who had sought refuge in Australia in 2013 but ended up being detained for six years in the infamous Manus Island Prison, his engagement being improbable because he was only able to recount and denounce his experience via fragments composed on a mobile phone and clandestinely sent abroad to a friend, but was eager to avoid an essentialization of the violence endured and, instead, to connect this experience with the colonial past and xenophobic present of the country, therefore politicizing the asylum crisis. However different they are, these intellectual figures do not simply use critique to expose a crisis that is already there; they contribute to their production, their depiction, and their interpretation. The third part deals with the responses given to crises by affected communities, at a collective or an individual level, but neither formally organized nor intellectually defined. The fate of migrants and refugees across the world, deemed undocumented aliens, epitomizes the situation of those concerned by crises, but, on the basis of her research at the southern border of the United States since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Denise Brennan focuses rather on those who exercise their discretionary power over these populations to control them via policing and punishing, which she contrasts with those in the local communities who try to protect and assist these illegal foreigners. Such care is not without ambiguity, however, as Greta Wagner shows in her study of the reception of migrants and refugees after 2015 in Germany, which has been by far the most hospitable country of the Western world in recent years: while compassion tends

Introduction 7 

to get citizens closer to the exiles in their neighborhood, it is often mixed with representations of them as pure victims, with prejudices about their way of living, and even with resentment regarding the insufficient expression of their gratitude, which jointly constitute obstacles to the building of an equal relationship. It is a very different scenario that Daniel Aldana Cohen and David Bond offer in their study of the reaction to hurricanes in the state of New York and the island of St. Croix by experts, volunteers, and ordinary citizens who share their views about the catastrophes foretold, yet which were ignored by the authorities and iteratively caused severe damage to the population. Another environmental issue, chemical contamination, is at stake in David Bond’s research in Vermont, and he gives an account of the difficult struggle of the people exposed in their immediate environment to fluorosurfactants known for their cancerogenic effects and confronted by the resistance of industry companies as well as state officials who, after having negated the pathologic effects of their products, try to elude the fact that toxicity is becoming not only increasingly ubiquitous but also unequally distributed. However, affected people can be neither reactive nor proactive but retreat as a silent mode of protest, as Anne-Claire Defossez analyzes in the French case, with an increasing number of individuals, culminating at the 2017 presidential and legislative elections, who do not seem concerned by the political processes because they do not register on the electoral rolls or they abstain from voting, especially among the working class, which also disappears from almost all political bodies, either local or national, as if their disinvestment from the supposed democratic life signifies their refusal of a system that does not represent them anymore. Migrant and refugee crisis, environmental crisis, and representational crisis show in various ways the involvement of critique beyond the usual framework of social movements and engaged intellectuals—among common people. The fourth and last part explores the reflexive perspectives from which human and social scientists delve into the comprehension of critical responses to crises. For Hector Amaya, the challenge is to try to apprehend the rationalities underlying violent and racist acts of white supremacists and alt-right nationalists, which he studies through the 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville during which a young woman was killed and the 2019 mosque shooting in Christchurch that resulted in the deaths of fifty-one people. As regards Munira Khayyat, the question is that of the involvement of the professor with her students in the dual context of the aborted Egyptian January Revolution from 2011 on and of the Lebanese so-called October Revolution in 2019, as the classroom becomes a refuge from repression in the first case and as the street becomes an avatar of the classroom in the second

8 Introduction

one. Also based on his own experience in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States as supporter of and activist in social movements for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, but expanding his analysis to include earlier workers’ protests, Michael Walzer draws a comparison of the dynamics within political mobilizations depending on whether people are directly affected or remotely engaged, and reflects on the differences in political commitments between the oppressed and their sympathizers as well as between the activists and the militants. Reflecting on other collective struggles, those for better labor conditions, Axel Honneth examines the withdrawal of workers at the very moment when these conditions have worsened, which could suggest that either they have become more passive or that their defiance has become less visible, an alternative that leads to a reconsideration of what can be interpreted as resistance and to a search for alternative modes of opposing the system, positively by promoting local cultures of respect or negatively by developing cultures of misbehavior, in both cases critiquing contemporary capitalism. In a final essay, Didier Fassin proposes to deem conspiracy theories deviant forms of critique of official knowledge and legitimate authority that generate a dual crisis of veridiction and authority, and he insists that they therefore deserve particular attention rather than mockery or denunciation, in order to apprehend their complex meanings and ambiguous signals. Taken together, the twenty contributions of this volume thus offer a geography of the social production of crises on a global scale. Although the historical and national contexts are extremely different and the issues are in each case specific, all converge to demonstrate the intricacy between crisis and critique. Crises frequently stem from critique, and critique generally emerges from crises. Whether they are organized in groups or unions, are defined as intellectuals or activists, or are simply individuals unsatisfied with a certain state of the world, people both produce and respond to critical situations with the critical instruments they have at hand. In a time when crises are so often naturalized and critique is so often contested, it might make sense to remember how much they are intimately connected.

PART ONE Social Movements


1 Capitalism Contested Britain in the Aftermath of World War I C L A RA E L I SA B E T TA MAT T EI


fter World War I the working class produced an unprecedented crisis of capitalism.1 Workers were challenging capitalism throughout the continent, finding well-known revolutionary expressions in many European countries such as Germany and Italy. The revolutionary tide was so intense that it even hit countries like Britain, where capitalistic values and parliamentary democracy were far more ingrained. The struggle took many forms. While strike numbers and participation details were unheard of, I am interested in exploring how the revolution came to include concrete experiments with workers’ control, implementing production for use and not for profit, communal rather than private property, and emancipated rather than commodified labor. Worker control meant the replacement of the capitalist industrial system by a new industrial order where associations of workers would control their industry, either partially or completely. The engineers (or metalworkers), the miners, and the builders played the biggest role in the struggle for worker control, which had reached its climax in 1919 through the deployment of different strategies. The following three patterns exemplify the wide variety of revolutionary practices: unofficial revolutionary worker committees that stood for an antiparliamentary ideology, a union campaign that successfully pierced the British establishment, and the effective operation of building guilds within the capitalist market. The Great War had triggered the unthinkable. Faced with the choice between life and death, victory and defeat, governments were forced to implement economic practices that were unheard of or even unimaginable until that moment. The mere functioning of the laws of the market proved inadequate for the

12 Social Movements

unprecedented production challenges during the war. Wartime production and distribution, not only of munitions but also of all basic commodities, required a radical departure from laissez faire in favor of state intervention. Key war industries were put under government control. War collectivism meant a further melding of the economic and the political during wartime, one of decisive relevance for the politicization of economic relations. With the Munitions of War Act 1915, the state regulated the mobility, the cost, and the supply of labor in large portions of the economy. In this sense state intervention during the war was a determining factor in engendering the explosive sentiments, empowerment, and frustrations of the workers. Workers’ empowerment derived from the fact that interventionist state policies required constant mediation with the representatives of labor and their collaboration. The war acted as a major catalyst to workers’ politicization and increased their industrial strength. Trade union membership rose by over 50 percent between 1914 and 1918, climbing steadily from 4,145,000 in 1914 to 6,533,000 in 1918. The immediate postwar boom took the total to a record figure of 8,348,000 in 1920 (Pelling 1987, 262–63). This was caused by frustration, given the explicitly coercive measures enacted to tackle the problems arising from the depletion of the reserve army of labor, such as limiting the mobility of the labor force and increasing the pool of unskilled workers available. The war had revealed to the workers their central productive role. The home front was necessary for war victory, and the paralyzing effect of strikes gave further proof of workers’ centrality. This awareness was heightened by the official position of the government, which had glorified the importance of industrial labor but ultimately disregarded workers’ demands for change. The 1919 report made clear that British workers supported the war effort, with the caveat that there should be no return to pre-1914 social conditions. “It must be remembered that throughout the war the workers have been led to expect that the conclusion of hostilities would be followed by a profound revolution in the economic structure of society” (Coal Industry Commission 1919, 38). Nonetheless, after the war, inflation, profiteering, and the inclination of government to enact decontrol demonstrated the support of government for the capitalist class. Hence, “disillusionment and fear of exploitation in the future on an unprecedented scale has made the workers think that their only remedy lies in taking matters into their own hands” (Coal Industry Commission 1919, 49). This effort to take matters into their own hands took, most notably, the form of a movement for industrial control that challenged the centrality of private

Capitalism Contested 13 

property and wage relations, the two main pillars of capitalist accumulation. War collectivism raised the class awareness of workers and, more importantly, politicized economic matters. It exposed how labor relations and the social organization of production could be a terrain of conflict and thus prone to historical change. State intervention was thus the trigger for an unprecedented crisis of capitalism, a crisis that was produced and lived by the British workers. However, the reaction of the state, which responded with austerity policies, ultimately resulted in the defeat of the movement for workers’ control (for a detailed study on the austerity reaction see Mattei 2022, forthcoming).

WORKER CONTROL AND THE SHOP STEWARDS MOVEMENT Independent (often rebellious) rank-and-file organizations of workers surged during the war, acquiring, in the case of the Shop Stewards Movement, profound revolutionary characteristics and objectives. These organizations were motivated by antagonism toward the state, the official trade unions, and ultimately the war. The Munitions of War Act of 1915 expressed David Lloyd George’s goal of the “subordination of labour to the direction and control of the state” (Times [London], June 4, 1915), guaranteeing a disciplined and mobile labor force and reenacting favorable conditions for efficient exploitation. Thus in the eyes of many workers, the state was biased toward the interests of employers: “the capitalist class is more than pleased with the State subjugation of Labour. . . . Capital needs State ownership” (The Socialist, September 1916, in Hinton 1973, 47). On the other hand, unions had demonstrated their complicity. Before 1914 shop stewards were few, had limited representative tasks, and belonged mainly to skilled organizations. After the war began, these characteristics were reversed with the blossoming of the movement and the prominence of a new type of unofficial steward with considerably wider powers (no longer appointed by trade unions but by groups of workers in particular establishments), who took the lead in every industrial dispute within the trade, “without requiring to lose time by communicating with any Executive or central Headquarter group to intercede or negotiate for them” (Commission of Enquiry 1917, 51). By the end of the war the movement had spread all over the country, exercising great influence in many engineering establishments and whole districts.

14 Social Movements

Trade union officials, employers, and the government had been forced to reckon with it. Even Lloyd George had to admit that “much of the present difficulty springs from the mutiny of the rank and file against the old established leaders” (Cronin 1984, 21) Never before or since has an unofficial rank-and-file movement exercised in Britain such power and influence (Pribićević 1959, 83). This influence was particularly frightening given the revolutionary intentions of the movement, which was mostly led by left-wing socialists who embraced the drive for total class power under the strong influence of the Russian Revolution. In the words of Tom Walsh, prominent shop steward militant: “The spirit is not for a paltry increase of wage, but for the absolute abolition of the present system of robbery, the sweeping away of Capitalism and the Establishment of a People’s Commonwealth!” (Walsh 1920, 4); Walsh also said that “the one object of the movement is the emancipation of the wage-slave and the construction of the necessary machinery to help to accomplish this task in view” (Walsh 1920, 8). Given that, as the Scottish leaders Gallacher and Campbell put it, the method of production and distribution was considered the problem “we must face if we would be free” (Gallacher and Campbell 1919, 32), the solution was to be found in “taking industry from the control of the capitalists and placing it in the control of the workers” (Gallacher and Campbell 1919, 14). Local workers’ committees could then be seen as embryonic forms of a proletarian state power. It was not about joint control, but about collective ownership and complete management by the workers achieved through direct action. Two interlinked factors made up direct action: strikes and workers’ control. Strikes at once stimulated and were founded on the construction of instruments of direct democracy—workers’ committees or soviets—that would place “the control of the product in the hands of the workers themselves” (Gallacher and Campbell 1919, 31). Committees allowed for coordination of strikes, boosting the power of labor to further develop (those) very committees. Furthermore, such a workers’ industrial organization was to be the main organ of industrial control and ultimately of political emancipation. This twofold agenda was painstakingly enacted and refined during the war and the postwar years. From this struggle emerged the rank-and-file organization, a new weapon of class power that in the eyes of the revolutionary shop steward leaders could “play such a formidable part in the conquest of capitalism” (Gallacher and Campbell 1919, 16–17). By 1919, the connection with Soviet power was explicit. As written in The Socialist of January 1919: “The striking masses have spontaneously created the workers committees, the basis of the

Capitalism Contested 15 

workers’ state  .  .  . these committees representing every department in every mine, mill railway, contain the element of an organization that can transform capitalism into a Soviet Republic  .  .  . all power to the workers’ committees” (The Socialist, January 30, 1919, in Hinton 1973, 302). What was the structure of these British soviets? Much time and energy were spent on this question. Between 1917 and 1921, the main leaders of the Shop Stewards Movement produced more than seven schemes confronting concrete problems of movement organization and development, often discussed also in their main newspapers: Solidarity and The Worker. Generally, the organization consisted of four main levels: workshop committees, plant committees, local workers’ committees, and the national organization. The workshop committee was “the unit of organization, composed of the stewards elected in the various departments” (“Rules of Constitution,” in Coates and Topham 1968, 113); they were elected irrespective of the particular trade union they belonged to, their skill, trade, or sex. The central philosophy was that “these committees should not have any governing power but should exist to render service to the rank and file, by providing a means for them to arrive at decisions and to unite their forces” (Murphy 1917, 10). This horizontal industrial organization ensured direct and complete accountability from the base so that the decision-making power rested with the workers. Elected delegates of the workshop committee would form the plant committee representatives, who would then join the local or district workers’ committee. These committees covered either big cities such as Sheffield or larger areas like the Clyde. The Clyde committee was the most important. In 1916 other committees were established in Barrow, London, and Manchester. The Sheffield committee was constituted early in 1917 and assumed a leading role; by the end of the war almost every engineering center had its own committee so that in 1919 there were still twenty in England and twelve in Scotland (Gleason 1920, 199). The district committees were the most important link of the whole structure. They were in most cases outside the influence of trade unions and provided the workshop bodies with a common policy on larger industrial and political issues, bringing forward the anticapitalist and revolutionary aspect of the movement (Pribićević 1959, 94). The local structure had its counterpart in the national structure, with a national conference that met regularly after 1917, a national committee (founded in July 1919 as the National Advisory Council, which represented the metal industry at the national level), and an envisaged national council with the ultimate object of coordinating the movement of all British workers as one body.

16 Social Movements

The state reacted promptly to contain these revolutionary aspirations by deploying armed forces and imprisoning and deporting organization leaders. In addition, the state avoided giving formal or informal recognition to the leaders of the Shop Stewards Movement, drastically weakening their bargaining power and forcing their surrender to official union leadership. State repression was accompanied after the war by unfavorable economic conditions: the termination of the fighting and the consequent cessation of mass production of munitions struck at the roots of the movement’s power. As a result, “it became easy for employers who were cutting down their staffs to get rid of the principal ‘agitators,’ and of those who escaped the sack, many, in fear of it, became much less active” (Cole 1958, 414). Workers’ committees thus gradually ceased to function as coordinating organs of the powerful workshop committees and became militant propagandist and coordinating centers, drawing radical political conclusions from their defeat; this new stance was well expressed by, among others, Gallacher and Campbell in their 1919 pamphlet Direct Action. The authors realized that in order to confront the powerful state that was “out to beat the workers in the interest of the capitalist class,” organizing beyond the workplace was an inescapable step. By 1920 the full influence of Bolshevism was felt more than ever. It reconsidered the importance of political leadership and participated in the formation of the British Communist Party, which would join the Third Communist International. The emancipatory ideas of the worker control movement were not, however, voiced by only the most radical fringes. They were voiced by a far larger section of the working class through constitutional means. The cases of miners and building guilds are noteworthy examples of this historical reality. Unlike the metalworkers, miners and builders were still in much demand after the war and so had greater bargaining power.

THE MINERS AND THE SANKEY COMMITTEE The war had a critical impact on the mining community, strengthening its class awareness and industrial power. State control of coal represented a dramatic advance in the miners’ position: the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain (MFGB) received official recognition, and the successful national wage-andhour direct bargaining with the state gave legitimacy to the audacity of the miners’ postwar program. By the end of the war the miners’ union was powerful and nationally structured. It organized about 1 million men, making it by far

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the largest union in Great Britain. In 1919 roughly one in eight of the population either lived in or came from a mining community (Coal Industry Commission 1919, 2:479), and “class bitterness and class solidarity in mining villages was without parallel in the rest of British industry” (Morgan 1979, 65). The miners were, moreover, actively involved in supporting mobilization in other sectors, a mobilization that fostered workers’ solidarity and granted them influence beyond their sector. On January 31, 1919, the MFGB presented its demands for an advance of 30 percent on basic wages, a six-hour working day, and nationalization and joint control with the government, warning that unless the demands were granted in full, the result would be a national coal strike. If successful, the miners’ postwar program “would amount to the most far reaching changes the industry, or indeed any British industry, had ever seen (something that remains true still to-day)” (Ives 2016, 76). Circumstances were politically favorable to the workers. After the war the country was experiencing a coal shortage: a strike not only would directly impair energy provision to households but would also close down industries in the early stages of conversion to peacetime production and imperil the effort to recapture overseas markets (shipping vitally needed coal). Moreover, the stakes were extremely high. The political situation was precarious and unpredictable: with the prevailing industrial unrest, a miners’ strike could potentially escalate into a serious political crisis. In those days (late January), there was a general strike on the Clyde, the London Tube employees were on strike, and the railway men were on the verge of strike action. If the miners were rejected out of hand, a general strike seemed inevitable (Armitage 1969, 116). Revolutionaries like the Scottish socialist John Maclean went further. For him and for an influential group within the MFGB, a miners’ strike over hours and wages might, in the context of mass mobilization, pull in millions of workers from other industries with potentially revolutionary results (The Call, January 23, 1919, in Ives 2016, 47). These were not completely unrealistic thoughts. In the early months of 1919, the forces of law and order were, in the government’s own estimation, unreliable. If upheaval occurred, the chances of containing it seemed limited. Cabinet evidence shows that most ministers were hostile to the miners’ claims, yet given the circumstances, “in much haste and alarm” (Morgan 1979, 62), the cabinet suggested that their demands be investigated by an impartial governmental commission under the neutral chairmanship of Sir John Sankey, one of the king’s judges of the high court. The commission held statutory powers

18 Social Movements

to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence. The miners’ leaders accepted the offer, providing that the MFGB were allowed to nominate half the commission. The Times described the tense atmosphere from which this commission emerged, how it represented a “breathing space” in the continual menace of strike resurgence: “A week ago the atmosphere was highly charged, and there were all the signs of an approaching storm so devastating and so far spreading that none of the people would escape its effects. To-day the air is clearer . . . the danger of an industrial upheaval have not been removed; but . . . the miners will have full scope for providing the justice and practicability of their claims at the inquiry of the Coal Industry Commission which opens today” (“Lull in Labour Strife,” Times [London], March 3, 1919, 11). The commission was composed of six representatives of capital and six representatives of labor: more specifically, it included three leaders of the miners (Robert Smillie, president of MFGB; Frank Hodges, general secretary of MFGB; and Herbert Smith, vice president of MFGB and president of the Yorkshire Miners’ Federation), three social experts and miner sympathizers (the economist Leo Chiozza Money, the socialist historian R. H. Tawney, and the Fabian economist Sidney Webb), three coal owners (Evan Williams, R. W. Cooper, and J. T. Forgie), and three representatives of industry (Arthur Balfour, Sir Eric Duckham, and Sir Tony Royden). The first stage of the hearings, concerning working wages and hours, occurred on March 3–20, 1919; the second, regarding the broader issue of nationalization, was concluded in June 1919. Between the first and the second stage, 163 witnesses were heard comprising a plurality of voices: miners’ wives, economics professors, civil servants, engineers, secretaries of the local miners’ federations, representatives of industry, colliery owners, and others (Coal Industry Commission 1919, 1:xxiv; 2: xxix–xxii. While the first-stage report was accepted by the government, the second ultimately was not. Even if some historians’ (e.g., Mowat 1955, 30–38; Kirby 1977, 37) ex post reconstruction has tended to view the Sankey Committee episode as an event that by buying time killed the revolutionary potential of the miners, it is certainly the case that the event expressed the agency of the workers not only to improve their conditions but also to create a historical breakthrough: the challenge to the fundamentals of capitalism no longer stood at the margin within the extra-parliamentary left. Ideas that until recently would have been considered taboo and a product of exalted extremists were now circulated widely in Great Britain. Threat of direct action and its paralyzing effect sparked a political debate that

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occurred at the heart of the British establishment, intimately involving Parliament and the national press, which reported the proceedings at length. Historians agree that “such publicity, such documentation from government experts had been unknown before” (Mowat 1955, 32). With the Sankey Committee, questions of nationalization and workers’ control were at center stage of the discussion for more than eight months. One interim report reads, What we have to deal with is the most extensive single movement in the industrial history of this country—is, accordingly, scarcely to be classed with the sectional demands made on the employers in particular trades for particular concessions. It is a comprehensive appeal submitted to the Government and public opinion, by not less than one-tenth of the entire population of the United Kingdom—equaling in numerical magnitude the whole of Ireland, if not the whole of Scotland—not only for an advance in their standard of life, but also such reorganisation of their industry as may enable this advance to be granted without imposing any unfair charge upon the rest of the community. (Coal Industry Commission 1919, 1:xiii)

The hearings and cross-examinations that were under the watch of national public opinion successfully put private capitalism in open trial, overthrowing the idea of private property as a natural unquestionable given. William Straker, the secretary of the Northumberland Miners, commented in his precis that “during the first stage of this Commission the old ways of mine management and control were shown to be so beaten into mud” (Coal Industry Commission 1919, 2:944). Gleason, a contemporary observer, noted that “no such latitude of questioning has ever before been permitted in an official industrial investigation. Here you had a miner cross-examining a millionaire employer and driving him into a corner from which he did not escape” (Gleason 1920, 34). In fact, the first session of hearings was publicly recognized, also by the bourgeois press, as a triumph for the workers. The Daily News wrote: “no one who attends its proceedings can help coming away with the impression that it is the mine owners, not the miners whose case is on trial” (cited in Gleason 1920, 48). The Times reported: “There will be no difference of opinion amongst dispassionate leaders on one point, which is that of the three parties concerned the miners came out the best. Their case was better presented, but it was also a better case than that of the Government or the mine owners” (“The Industrial Crisis,” Times [London], March 18, 1919).

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Criticism of the Current Economic Order The three miners’ representatives, Hodges, Smillie, and Smith, together with the economic experts Sidney Webb, R. H. Tawney, and Leo Chiozza Money, all agreed on a basic point: free-market capitalism had to be denounced and overcome. They turned the sessions of the enquiry into “a sort of grand inquisition into the shortcomings of private enterprise,” writes Pelling, who continues, “The fact that the commission met in the King’s Robing Room of the House of Lords made its deliberations seem all the more impressive” (Pelling 1987, 162). Private initiative and private profit as the motives for production were thoroughly examined and publicly rebuked. Smillie and Hodges called them “the old regime” (Arnot 1919, preface). A general reflection regarding the structural dynamics of capitalism developed. In the different depositions of the commissioners, a common theme emerges: economic inefficiency “cannot be ascribed to personal shortcomings” (Coal Commission 1919, 2:477); it instead springs from the very functioning of competition within capitalism. The outcomes of the invisible hand were not as optimal as Adam Smith had promised. Competition for profit had resulted in lack of coordination combined with a structural incapacity to undertake the long-term investment that was needed to increase the supply of coal and keep prices low. All of this occurred because lowering wages guaranteed high profits to the coal owners: “We have, in fact, as a nation, got the mine workers’ labour too cheap for our economic health” (Coal Commission 1919, 1:xviii). Individual profit was no longer considered the proper guiding principle to satisfy the needs of the community as a whole. As Smillie and Hodges wrote, the new principle meant “a break with the past. It is a challenge to capitalistic tradition, the tradition that efficient production is alone compatible with the motive of profit making” (Arnot 1919, 4). While the dynamics of competition as a source of inefficiency could be potentially solved by unification under private ownership, another source of inefficiency did not have such an easy solution. The antagonistic relationship between capital and labor was endogenous to the nature of private capitalism. Workers’ suffering was not only unjust, but it also drastically contributed to radicalizing the workers to oppose the system, constantly threatening strikes and impairing productivity. There was a common understanding that the labor force was now strong and demanded a different role within the production process. As Sankey wrote in the official report, “Half a century of education has produced in the workers in the coalfields far more than a desire for the material advantages of higher wages and shorter hours. They have now, in many cases and to an

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ever-increasing extent, a higher ambition of taking their due share and interest in the direction of the industry to the success of which they, too, are contributing” (Coal Industry Commission 1919, 2:vii).

Nationalization and Worker Control Clause IX of the Sankey Report announced a new system to come: “Even upon the evidence already given, the present system of ownership and working in the coal industry stands condemned, and some other system must be substituted for it, either nationalization or a method of unification by national purchase and/or by joint control” (Coal Commission 1919, 1:viii). Fearing a national miners’ strike or, worse, a strike of the triple alliance (the alliance of the three main British trade unions: the miners, the railwaymen and the transport workers) on March 20, 1919, the cabinet accepted Sankey’s report. Not only did the Sankey Report concede an increase in wages and a decrease of working hours, but Clause IX gave wide hopes: in the words of the miners’ leaders, it “has now given place to concrete proposals for effecting the change from private ownership and capitalistic working to national ownership and joint working between the State and those actually engaged” (Arnot 1919 4). The Times voiced the extreme nature of the events in an article titled in capital letters: “COAL REPORT. BIG CONCESSIONS TO MINERS. EFFECTIVE VOICE IN DIRECTION. PRESENT SYSTEM CONDEMNED” (“Coal Report” Times, [London] March 21, 1919, 11). It reported: “The miners are thus offered more than nationalization, as that term is usually interpreted. The owners are to go, as owners, and the only question is what is the best form for the new system, which will give miners a direct say in management” (“To Strike or Not to Strike” Times, [London] March 21, 1919, 11. A second stage of the commission was now to deal directly with workers’ control and nationalization. The reports of Sankey (Coal Commission 1919, 2:4) and the workers’ representatives, together with the Miners’ Bill of the Miners’ Federation (drafted by Sanker and officially submitted to the commission on May 23), all agreed on the abolition of royalties and the necessary state ownership of the coal seams. “It is suggested that the State should purchase all the collieries, including colliery buildings, plant, machinery, stores and other effects in and about the colliery at a fair value” (Sankey Report, 2:vii). Nationalization was “the only means of ensuring that the coal is supplied to the consumers with regularity and at the lowest cost” (Coal Commission 1919, 2:478). It was going to benefit the nation, not just the miners. As John R. Clynes,

22 Social Movements

Labour member of Parliament, put it: “National ownership is advocated not for a trade, or a class, or a sectional benefit. Gain for the community inspires the demand made for immediate changes in both the terms of service, and the conditions of ownership of this great property” (Hodges 1920, iv). However, the miners’ representatives pushed for something more. To union leaders Smillie, Hodges, and Straker, as well as to G. D. H. Cole, who was asked to give a deposition, there was a binding relation between workers’ control and nationalization: “Just as national ownership is inadequate without workers’ control, so workers’ control is inadequate without national ownership” (Cole, in Arnot 1919, 33). Nationalization in itself did not guarantee the overcoming of the wage system, that is, “a system under which the worker sells his labour to an employer in return for a wage, and by this sale is supposed to forego all right over the manner in which his labour is used” (Arnot 1919, 33). The bold claim was for economic democracy, understood as joint control between miners and the state. Workers’ control over the workplace as the fundamental step to overcome capitalism was a deep-rooted warhorse of the unofficial rank-and-file movements, not only of metalworkers (as already seen) but also of miners. The call for radical economic democracy was already present in the 1912 syndicalist-inspired program The Miners’ Next Step; the unrest in the pits of 1919 also produced the pamphlet Industrial Democracy for Miners, published by the industrial committee of the South Wales Socialist Society, which offered a detailed scheme for the implementation of workers’ control. These unofficial movements had grown stronger during the war, exercising considerable left-wing pressure and influence in the coalfields and even on the policy of MFGB. In 1919 the core of this vision, certainly purged of its explicit revolutionary message, found circulation within the establishment, proposing a radically different image of industrial society. The argument put forward by the commissioners appealed because it turned worker control into an issue of national rather than class interest. Worker’s active participation in industrial management was the alternative that ensured the concrete empowerment of the workers, service to the community, and the efficiency of production. The Miners’ Bill and the final report drafted by Sankey and accepted by the six workers’ representatives (becoming virtually a majority report) emerged as concrete blueprints for the management of the industry along these lines, both schemes resembling the shop stewards’ proposal previously analyzed. They envisaged the avoidance of a hierarchical bureaucratic administration and the effective participation of workers in the control of industry through a threetiered scheme of mining councils, which were electoral bodies with substantial

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worker representation. The three tiers were, from the most local to the national, Pit Councils, District Councils, and the National Mining Council. While the last-mentioned had the chief coordinating role, the other local councils held a large degree of productive and financial autonomy. Each report gave a different view of the managerial weight of the workers in the production process. The scheme drafted by Sankey put the minister of mines (responsible to Parliament) in supreme control, with the obligation to consult the National Mining Council on “all questions connected with the operation and management of industry” (Arnot 1919, 37–47). On the other hand, the miners’ scheme understood the National Mining Council—the minister of mines being a member—as the supreme authority. The Mining Council, with half its members elected in Parliament (including technicians, experts, and managerial workers) and the other half workers engaged in industry, would “open and work mines and search for, dig, bore, win and deal with minerals and generally to carry on the industry of mining, distributing, vending, and exporting, together with all other industries carried on in connection therewith” (Miners’ Bill, reprinted in Arnot 1919, 37–47). Even with some reservations regarding the supposedly limited degree of workers’ representation, at the Annual Conference of the Miners’ Federation in July at Keswick, the miners voted to back Sankey’s scheme and to send a strong message to the government.

The Rise and Defeat of the Coal Miners The reports of the commission were released in June and received widespread attention in the national press; the Times of June 23, for example, published them in full. In the Economic Journal, H. D. Henderson expressed a common belief among contemporaries, from the side of both capital and labor. The Sankey Committee’s proposals were completely new; “There is no real guidance to be obtained from the experience of past or contemporary institutions” (Henderson 1919, 269). And they were a potential political precedent that was “striking and dangerous, capable of application to other industries, offering an objective and rallying point to those who are seeking to transform the whole structure of society” (Henderson 1919, 276). According to the Welsh miners’ leader, Vernon Hartshorn, the miners had unearthed a constitutional mechanism by which revolutionary change could take place in Great Britain. Commenting on the proposals of the second report, he wrote: “They go to the very roots of the capitalist system. The recommendations comply with all the forms of constitutional procedure, though they

24 Social Movements

foreshadow change which is truly revolutionary” (South Wales News, 30 June 1919, reprinted in Ives 2016, 208). Occupying the “foremost position in the industrial hierarchy,” coal was understood as a vanguard case with the potential of accomplishing a full-blown system of workers’ control (Hodges 1920, 114). The Daily Herald had before spoken many times along these lines: “The whole labour movement looks at the miners to hew out of the capitalist system a platform from which it can make a great leap forward” (Daily Herald, March 22, 1919). The potential power of the miners was recognized also by the coal owners, who from the witness box repeatedly warned that the nationalization of the mines would “be followed by nationalization of all industries . . . and the consequent ruin of the people” (Coal Industry Commission 1919, 2:1,137). The federation of the coal owners, the MAGB (Mining Association of Great Britain), together with the National Association of the Chamber of Commerce, coordinated a widespread antinationalization campaign to win a battle that, if lost, meant that “England would change hands” (Ives 2016, 226). Indeed, the battle had to be fought. The controversy over the nationalization of the mines dominated British politics in the summer of 1919 and became a linchpin for the emerging Labour Party, which fully endorsed the Sankey Report. The miners’ cause was popular, and not just among workers. Winston Churchill had spoken in favor of nationalization during his election speech in Dundee, and according to Riddell’s diary, for some time Lloyd George also felt that the nationalization of the mines was inevitable (Riddell 1934, 59). However, after months of procrastination and political uncertainty, Sankey’s second majority report (which had the majority of seven out of thirteen commissioners) was not accepted by the government, being officially rejected in August. In this decision the pressures from the Treasury to abandon control of industry given the preoccupation with public finances had decisive weight. Beginning in July the government sought to exploit the fear of poor public finances to paint the miners’ demands as excessive and damaging to the national economy (Ives 2016, 232). By March 1920, however, the economic conditions were unfavorable to the miners: the end of the boom put a definite end to their political force, and at that point “the Trade Unions were more concerned with looking to their own defenses, industry by industry, in face of the threatened depression than with supporting the Miners or any other section in essentially socialistic demands” (Cole 1958, 419). Economic depression was not a “natural disaster” but rather a well-thought-out strategy on the part of the Treasury and the Bank of England that operated to drastically apply monetary austerity by increasing the

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interest rate.2 This action immediately impacted British trade, especially trade in exports such as coal, as it had to compete with other devalued currencies. As Treasury official Ralph Hawtrey well understood, it was true that unemployment was due to a contraction of the supply of the means of payment. In this sense, “the big working-class offensive had been successfully stalled off; and British capitalism, though threatened with economic adversity, felt itself once more safely in the saddle and well able to cope both industrially and politically with any attempt that might still be made from the Labour side to unseat it” (Cole 1958, 419). Decontrol of coal, motivated primarily by financial concerns, occurred in combination with the industry sliding into a permanent depression in the spring of 1921: the miners lost most of the material gains obtained during the war, as well as the uniform increase in wages guaranteed by the Sankey award. The miners’ general strike of April 1 (which began the day after state control was abolished) represented the last heroic attempt at direct action to counter the decline in their living conditions through an appeal for a national wage. Their efforts culminated in defeat on April 15, 1921, when the leaders of the railway and transport unions decided to back away from participating in the strike and left the miners on their own. This episode is famously known as Black Friday, marking the moment in which the labor movement was forced on the defensive. After 1921 the industry returned to interdistrict competition and the full rigors of the private system. For those miners still at work, wages fell to 47 percent of prewar levels (Morgan 1979, 73). The miners’ movement for workers’ control opted for an alliance with the state but found in the state its ultimate defeat. The establishment was capable of prompt reaction: monetary deflation was enacted starting from the mid-1920s, exactly at the height of the battle. Politically induced economic pressures were lethal to the miners’ cause. The objective of institutional change was caught in the morass of the austerity rhetoric, and the priority was now cutting labor costs at whatever price.

THE BUILDING GUILDS This section looks at the building guilds, another channel through which the aspirations of the working class found an organized expression. Although they shared the same goal as the metalworkers and the miners—i.e., socialism, a system based on production for use instead of profit—guilds did not directly act against

26 Social Movements

the state or against private capitalists. Rather, guilds experimented with the institutions necessary for a different order of society within the capitalist system, alongside private capitalists and with the aid of the state. Unlike with the Sankey episode, the building guilds did not just exist as a blueprint to be implemented. They found, even if for a brief period, concrete existence in England, Italy, and other countries (Joslyn 1922, 126). Two principal historical conditions provided the grounds for this possibility in Britain. The first had to do with the nature of the industry itself: building was an industry requiring relatively little fixed capital, so that “the problem of the ownership of the instruments of production [was] relatively unimportant” (Cox 1921, 788). Thus there was not, as in the case of the miners, a binding need for a direct political struggle over nationalization. The second had to do with the fact that the market mechanism, with its motive of profit making, had completely failed to respond to the widespread public need for housing. Seizing the opportunity provided by the housing crisis after the war, the building guilds intended to bring about a “new industrial system” (Cole 1921b, 17) based on a new motive, “the motive of public service under free conditions” (Cole 1921b, 17), which was deemed far superior to that of private profit. In Britain alone, furnishing guilds and tailoring guilds were formed in Manchester, London, and other cities; there were also guilds of agricultural workers (at Welwyn in Hertfordshire, an agricultural guild had begun operations on a 500-acre tract of land), dock laborers, post office workers, office clerks, musical instrument makers, and engineers; the manufacture of packing cases and horse-drawn vehicles was also carried on by workers organized into guilds. In this flourishing of guilds in different trades, the guild socialist theorists such as G. D. H. Cole, Frank Hodges, and S. G. Hobson could envisage the starting point of the full-blown realization of a guild socialist society in which profit, private property, and wages would be conclusively forgotten in favor of a democratic economy and a new industrial system. The experiment of British building guilds had attracted widespread attention among not only British militants but also foreign academic observers, to the point that the most popular economic journals were considering its potential as an alternative in organizing production, with very positive conclusions. At the close of the war, Britain faced an acute housing shortage that was felt most severely by the working classes. The construction of houses practically stopped during the war, so that “at the lowest estimate there must have been a deficit of from 300,000 to 400,000 working-class houses by the end of 1918” (“Housing” 1921, 213). Moreover, during the war, repairs and efforts to eliminate

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slums had been abandoned to the point that existing dwellings were uninhabitable: “There are in this country at the present time at least 70,000 houses quite unfit for habitation, and a further 300,000 which are seriously defective. . . . There are about 3,000,000 people living in overcrowded conditions” (Clarke 1920, 234). This problem had been magnified by the increase in building costs, which had resulted in higher rents, making it impossible for a considerable portion of the population to afford housing. Already during the war the government had realized that private enterprise— responsible for approximately 95 percent of house building prior to the war—was unable to grapple successfully and speedily with the problem. The promise of an ambitious working-class housing program had been central to the government’s effort to placate popular discontent. Now that the war was over, the famous call for “homes fit for heroes” was echoing all over Britain, especially after speedy demobilization gave new urgency to the housing problem. In 1919, the government finally inaugurated the promised program in “unprecedented dimensions” (Joslyn 1922, 79). The Housing, Town Planning, &c. Act and the Housing Act of December 1919 (with additional powers, also known as the Addison Act, named after the minister of health) extended the power of the newly created minister of health to aid local authorities to undertake housing enterprises. This expansionary policy gave grounds for the building workers to organize in order “to carry out building operations on the guild rather than on the capitalistic system” (“Housing” 1921, 220) and to bid on housing contracts. In January 1920, the building guilds made their first appearance in Manchester. In September, the Ministry of Health approved contracts with the Manchester and London guilds for a total of more than 8oo working-class houses. By November 1920, more than eighty local guild committees of building-trade workers had organized for work. Building guilds were organized so that control rested democratically with the men who did the work, emphasizing local managerial and financial autonomy. Similar to the Shop Stewards and the ideas developed by the commissioners on the Sankey Committee, the building guilds were organized around a hierarchical tier structure in which the fundamental unit was the district or local guild committee functioning as a board of directors. The committee included at most two representatives of each craft so as to ensure an equal voice in the activities and transactions of the guild. They served for one year, were subject to recall, and were eligible for reelection. Beginning in July 1921, the National Conference of District Guild Committees adopted a constitution for a national building guild, envisaging the local level and also regional councils and a national board.

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The very operation of the building guilds embodied the firm commitment to overcome the basic foundations of capitalist production: private property, the profit motive, and wage relations. Let us consider them in turn. Like cooperatives, building guilds collectivized their means of production; however, they differed from cooperatives in that they did not organize for profit but for public service. Although each worker had a share of one penny in the guild, they were paid no dividends. The shares were merely symbolic, as the guild had no intention of accumulating surplus value. In Cole’s summary, “profit and loss are both ideas which have no say in the guild system” (Cole 1921, 291). The guilds operated through the principle of cost-price service, which was strictly nonprofit. Accordingly the state and local authorities, in entering into a contract with the guilds, paid for the cost of material and labor at standard rates with an addition of £40 per house, ensuring the guild’s ability to maintain “continuous pay” for its workers. If the costs turned out to be less than the estimated amount, nothing was pocketed and the amount was returned to the local authorities. The spirit of democratic public service that animated the guild as a whole was substantiated by the overcoming of the acquisitive motive on the part of its individual members, who were fueled by a creative and cooperative spirit rather than a possessive and self-interested one. The idea was that “if men are given good cause to work well and a sense of freedom and service in their work, the results will be vastly different from those secured by ordinary capitalist methods” (Cole 1921, 291). In practice the guilds eliminated any structural incentive for competition among the workers, rejecting individual payment based on results and differential treatment based on efficiency, opting instead for “a communal basis of remuneration.” Thus wage contracts, based on an unsound commodity valuation of labor, had to be replaced by a system of remuneration that recognized the social value of labor, “which shall more adequately meet the needs of the worker as a human being” (Joslyn 1922, 97). The so-called provisions for continuous pay were the core of the building guild policy, providing for full maintenance of the worker during bad weather, sickness, accidents, and holidays. At the time of the guilds’ first announcement of this policy of continuous pay, predictions were largely pessimistic: it was thought that malingering would be rampant and that workers would endeavor “to make their job a convalescent home” (Joslyn 1922, 109). Widespread statistics, provided in, among other places, the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the Monthly Labour Review, proved the opposite: the days lost by the building guild workers for sickness and accidents not only did not grow, but were also fewer than those in private business, both in Britain and in other countries. Furthermore, the analysis of comparative

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labor efficiency proved that guilds performed, according to orthodox economic criteria, far better than private builders, allowing the former to underbid their private contractors and saving the local authorities many expenses. Guilds could build houses not only of better quality but also at lower costs, and not just for the public authorities but also for private clients. The peaceful approach of the guild socialists, who had distanced themselves from revolutionary syndicalism and sought to achieve revolution through gradual change, meant that, in practice, guilds would have to operate and survive, at least initially, within a monetary, capitalist economy. Producing in a capitalist economy meant that the building guilds had to purchase their plants, equipment, and raw materials in an inherently volatile market. Surviving required initial capital or a basis for capital accumulation that the guilds, both due to their novelty and to their nonprofit structure, lacked. Furthermore, even if they could somehow procure this capital, there was always the concrete possibility of a boycott or blockage from capitalist suppliers that would impede the acquisition of the necessary building materials. Hence their takeoff crucially depended on favorable political decisions that nonetheless vanished before the guilds could establish a sturdy foundation. Originally, they flourished for eighteen months under the funding provided by the state and the Cooperative Wholesale Society, the second largest dealer in building materials after the government. However, by July 1921, in the midst of deflation and economic downturn and at a time when the “economy campaign” was thriving, the government decided to withdraw all state aid from local authorities, leaving them completely stripped of the possibility of affording their housing projects even if only less than one fifth of the houses urgently required had been built. At the same time, given the uncertainty of the business, the Cooperative Wholesale Society also withdrew its finances, leaving guilds without capital, which was ever more necessary if they were to build for private consumers while competing with private producers. The national building guild attempted to secure a loan from the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives, but due to wage reduction and unemployment the subscribers had a hard time raising the amount offered. They soon became unable to meet financial obligations. In 1922 the expansionary housing program was fully dismantled by the austerity maneuver of the Geddes Axe, “beheading” the building guild, which disappeared as an organization in the next couple of years. All other guilds followed in the same manner, so that by 1924 there was no longer a separate and organized guild socialist movement (Ostergaard 1997, 77). Cole commented on the encroachment of austerity: “The Building Guildsmen, who are as much interested in the provision

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of good houses as in the development of the new form of democratic industrial service for which they stand, have entered a vigorous protest against the British Government’s breach of pledges about ‘houses for heroes’ which it gave lavishly during the period when it was still the fashion to speak of ‘reconstruction.’ Nowadays, the word has vanished from the language, save as an archaic survival, and the word ‘economy’ has taken its place as the growing maxim of political wisdom” (Cole 1921, 290). NOTES 1. This chapter takes inspiration from the research that will feature in my forthcoming book, Capital Order: Class Politics and the Invention of Austerity. 2. On austerity in Britain after World War I and its rationalization by economic experts, see Mattei 2018.

REFERENCES Armitage, Susan H. 1969. The Politics of Decontrol of Industry: Britain and the United States. L.S.E. Research Monographs 4. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Arnot, Robert. 1919. Further Facts from the Coal Commission: Being a History of the Second Stage of the Coal Industry Commission; with Excerpts from the Evidence. London: Labour Research Department. Clarke, John Joseph. 1920. The Housing Problem: Its History, Growth, Legislation, and Procedure. New York: Sir I. Pitman. Coal Industry Commission. 1919. Reports and Minutes of Evidence of the First Stage of the Enquiry. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office. Coates, Ken, and Anthony Topham, eds. 1968. Industrial Democracy in Great Britain: A Book of Readings and Witnesses for Workers’ Control. London: Macgibbon and Kee. Cole, G. D. H. 1921. “The British Building Guild: An Important Development of Policy.” Journal of the American Institute of Architects 9 (1): 289–91. Cole, G. D. H. 1958. A History of Socialist Thought. Vol. 4. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Commission of Enquiry into Industrial Unrest, No. 3 Division. 1917. Report of the Commissioners for the Yorkshire and East Midlands Area. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office. Cox, Garfield V. 1921. “The English Building Guilds: An Experiment in Industrial Self-Government.” Journal of Political Economy 29 (10): 777–90. Gallacher, William, and G. R. Campbell. 1919. Direct Action: An Outline of Workshop and Social Organization. London: Pluto. Gleason, Arthur. 1920. What the Workers Want: A Study of British Labor. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Howe. Henderson, H. D. 1919. “The Reports of the Coal Industry Commission.” Economic Journal 29 (115): 265–79. Hinton, James. 1973. The First Shop Stewards’ Movement. Studies in Social History. London: Allen & Unwin.

Capitalism Contested 31  Hodges, Frank. 1920. Nationalization of the Mines. New York: Thomas Seltzer. “Housing.” 1921. Monthly Labor Review 12 (1): 213–21. Ives, Martyn. 2016. Reform, Revolution, and Direct Action Amongst British Miners: The Struggle for the Charter in 1919. Historical Materialism Book Series, 1570–1522. Vol. 123. Boston: Brill. Jones, Thomas. 1969. Whitehall Diary. Vol. 1, 1916–1925. London: Oxford University Press. Joslyn, Carl S. 1922. “The British Building Guilds: A Critical Survey of Two Years’ Work.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 37 (1): 75–133. Kirby, M. W. 1977. The British Coalmining Industry, 1870–1946: A Political and Economic History. London: Macmillan. Mattei, Clara Elisabetta. 2018. “Treasury View and Post-WWI British Austerity: Basil Blackett, Otto Niemeyer, and Ralph Hawtrey.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 42 (4): 1,123–44. Mattei, Clara Elisabetta. Forthcoming (2022). Capital Order. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Morgan, Kenneth O. 1979. Consensus and Disunity: The Lloyd George Coalition Government 1918–1922. New York: Clarendon. Mowat, Charles Loch. 1955. Britain Between the Wars, 1918–1940. London: Methuen. Murphy, J. T. 1917. The Workers’ Committee: An Outline of Its Principles and Structure. Sheffield: Sheffield Workers’ Committee. Ostergaard, Geoffrey. 1997. The Tradition of Workers’ Control: Selected Writings. London: Freedom Press. Pelling, Henry. 1987. A History of British Trade Unionism. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Pribićević, Branko. 1959. The Shop Stewards’ Movement and Workers’ Control, 1910–1922. Oxford: Blackwell. Riddell, George Allardice. 1934. Lord Riddell’s Intimate Diary of the Peace Conference and After, 1918–1923. London: Gollancz. Walsh, Tom. 1920. What Is the Shop Stewards’ Movement? A Survey with Diagrams. London: National Federation of Shop Stewards.

2 Striking a Rock with Eggs Resistance and Repression After Tiananmen ROW E N A X I AO Q I N G H E


n July 2017, the world watched as Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, lay slowly dying in a high-security hospital ward in northern China. Liu had been imprisoned since 2008, serving an eleven-year sentence for “subversion of state power.” After denying Liu medical treatment until it was too late, the Chinese government brought in Chinese medical specialists and foreign doctors to put on a show as the end approached. Liu’s close friends, who walked through every floor of the hospital desperately looking for him, were stopped by secret police.1 No one was able to bid him farewell. The most intrusive episode was when the Chinese authorities released videos and photos of Liu and his wife spending their last moments together. Separated by prison walls for almost a decade, husband and wife were deprived of their privacy even as death stood in the doorway. Liu’s passing marked a second Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died as a political prisoner, after Carl von Ossietzky, a German pacifist journalist and 1935 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died in a Nazi prison hospital in 1938. Liu Xiaobo’s nonviolent approach to resisting Chinese Communist Party (CCP) repression was most vividly demonstrated in an image at the peak of the Tiananmen crisis when over 200,000 army soldiers, armed with AK-47s and tanks, were deployed in Beijing to crack down on the nationwide nonviolent citizens’ movement calling for reform. In the early morning of June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square, journalists’ cameras captured Liu smashing guns at the Monument to the People’s Heroes (Wu 2014, 355–56). The weapons were a machine gun and an automatic rifle that had been brought to the square by workers who had witnessed deaths firsthand when the People’s Liberation Army fired on its own people upon entering the city (Cheng 2009, 261). Surrounded by students

Striking a Rock with Eggs 33 

who had pledged not to withdraw from the square “until the last person” (Han and Sheng 1990, 362) and by ordinary citizens who declared it was their right to fight back, Liu and other intellectuals (now known as the Four Gentlemen who had started a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square) convinced the workers to surrender the weapons. They also later negotiated with the military to let the students leave the square. Liu’s message was unmistakable: violence is not the answer. The workers’ two guns were nothing compared with the battlefield weapons with which the martial law soldiers were equipped. In fact, the authorities had intentionally made military weapons available (Wu 2014, 357). If even a single gunshot was fired by the people, who had remained peaceful throughout the Tiananmen Movement from April to June, the regime would have an excuse to justify its crackdown. Those final moments in Tiananmen Square embodied the political struggles between state power and the powerless in the Tiananmen crisis and in post1989 China as a whole. Proponents of political changes in China are yi luan ji shi, as the Chinese idiom goes, “striking a rock with eggs.” The official justification for the military crackdown in 1989 was to quell a riot that supposedly threatened the country’s stability and prosperity. However, the CCP has yet to provide a single piece of evidence of any violence throughout the movement in 1989 until the night of June 4, when citizens of Beijing took to the streets to defend their city against invaders sent by their own government and to protect the students. In 2019, thirty years after Tiananmen, Liu Xiaobo’s advocacy of nonviolence was again being tested by students on the streets of Hong Kong. The argument for violence was that generations of nonviolent efforts in both the mainland and Hong Kong had been in vain. No matter what form their action would take, the CCP was sure to label protesters as “rioters.” Liu Xiaobo’s body was cremated early the next morning after his death. The authorities compelled his grief-stricken widow Liu Xia to scatter her husband’s ashes right away into the Yellow Sea. Liu Xia herself had been put under house arrest for no stated cause during her husband’s imprisonment (Branigan 2013). That final insult—forcing her to scatter his ashes—was intended to avoid creating a space for pilgrimage like the grave of Lin Zhao, a Beijing University journalism student who was executed in 1968 after years of imprisonment and torture for criticizing the CCP dictatorship (Lian 2018). Lin’s grave, frequently visited by Chinese citizens she inspired, is considered a threat by the authorities (Johnson 2018), and like the graves of victims of the Tiananmen massacre, is constantly monitored by surveillance cameras.2 Liu Xiaobo’s friends and followers visited the seashores and the rivers near where they lived to pay their final respects.

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Many of them were subsequently detained. The state blocked any mention of Liu’s death from the media (Liu, Juliana 2017). In the closing statement that he was not allowed to deliver in court at his trial in 2009, Liu stated, “I have no enemies,” repeating what he had first said in 1989. It was counterpoint to the Chinese state, which regarded him as an enemy. Liu also said that “June 1989 was the major turning point” of his life (Liu 2009). When his wife told him that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he said that the prize “belongs to the lost souls of Tiananmen” (Lafraniere 2010). This chapter takes China’s 1989 Tiananmen Movement, a watershed event in modern Chinese history, as a starting point to paint a landscape of resistance in the immediate crisis of 1989 and its aftermath. Drawing on extensive primary sources, the chapter illustrates the challenges people face when they seek to respond to a crisis in a society where critiques of government policies are forbidden and critics are punished. The paradigm of this volume, Crisis Under Critique was developed in Western liberal democracies to examine political and social discourse. That paradigm is grounded in basic assumptions about the absence or perceived illegitimacy of arbitrary state power. In such societies, social criticism is a means of understanding and coping with crisis and facilitating social improvement. In authoritarian societies such as China, such basic assumptions cannot be taken for granted. Chinese citizens seeking to offer ameliorative and constructive social criticism often become victims themselves, paving the way to the next wave of social crisis. In the Tiananmen case, both domestic and foreign critics who responded to the crisis became actors in the aftermath of the crisis, simultaneously playing the dual roles of social critics as well as political victims who were demonized, marginalized, and criminalized by those in power. This chapter starts by discussing the concept of Confucian dissent; it then gives an overview of the 1989 crisis and focuses on individuals belonging to four social groups. (1) The “June 4 Rioters” were ordinary citizens who received heavy sentences for trying to block military action against unarmed civilians, or who organized actions such as workers’ strikes and memorials to protest the massacre. This nearly invisible group deserves to have their silenced voices heard. (2) The “black hands” and intellectuals were educated elites who were within the establishment in 1989 and who became marginalized as a result of their efforts to promote change. (3) The Tiananmen Mothers were family members of the victims and survivors of the massacre. (4) The Tiananmen veterans are not known to the public but carry on the fight to keep the memory alive. This paper concludes by discussing the dynamics of repression and resistance and the implications for the future of political changes in China and for our broader understanding of crisis and critique in authoritarian societies.

Striking a Rock with Eggs 35 

CONFUCIAN DISSENT: “A SECOND KIND OF LOYALTY” The concept of Confucian dissent, signifying loyal dissent or dissent within the establishment, is critical to my argument. Despite the official verdict that designated the 1989 Tiananmen Movement as “counter-revolutionary” and the general impression in the West that the Tiananmen uprising was a “revolution,” it was not. In reality, the movement was rooted in the tradition of Confucian dissent, a mode of political action in Chinese history that can be traced back to the reformminded Confucian literati of the late Qing dynasty and continued up through the establishment intellectuals of the early decades of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Like their historical forerunners, the students and intellectuals of 1989, especially those who were Marxist humanists, considered it their historical mission to help the rulers improve and to remonstrate, guide, and induce rulers to act justly within the existing state structure and political system. They were not revolutionaries; they were not seeking a regime change. In his writing titled “The Second Kind of Loyalty,” published in 1985 and now referred to as “literary reportage,” writer Liu Binyan raised a key question: “Can the system allow a loyal citizen to criticize the authorities?” (Liu, Binyan 2006). Liu was eventually expelled from the CCP and died in exile. Sinologist Perry Link observes that a “worrying mentality” was pervasive among Chinese intellectuals in the 1980s. “Those who work to improve society, whether they succeed or not, represent the courageous ideal of the Chinese intellectual in its purest form” (Link 1992, 249). That ideal is an inheritance from the imperial past, when Confucian scholars— the Chinese term is rujia: persons who taught and performed rituals—were in effect tethered to the state. In the words of Richard Madsen, “Elite Confucian scholars saw their highest calling as service to the state, which included remonstrating with the emperor if he was acting in a way contrary to court politics, with accompanying political perils” (Madsen 2015, 193). The emperor in theory embodied the proper ordering of the cosmos, but when he deviated from the norms of proper governance, justice, and humanity, it was the duty of the scholar-literati to remonstrate with him and persuade him to return to the ideals. Confucian dissent was admonitory and involved self-abnegation and even self-sacrifice if necessary rather than acts of violence against authority. It was a form of intramural dissent, the fulfillment of one of the primary Confucian bonds of superior/ subordinate, that between ruler and minister. Confucian dissent was not an assertion of political rights vis-à-vis the ruler. Rather, it was an expression of loyalty to the ruler, who could in theory be persuaded by reasoned argument to amend his behavior and political actions. This tradition still operated in the 1980s among intellectuals. Unfortunately, with few

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exceptions, CCP leaders were unwilling to engage in dialogue, perceiving a mortal threat to their authority. In fact, the Tiananmen Movement was sparked by the sudden death of Hu Yaobang, the former general secretary of the CCP whose reformist views distinguished him from the hardliners in the leadership and who had been purged for his soft approach to earlier student protests. The movement ended with the dismissal of another open-minded CCP general secretary, Zhao Ziyang, who refused to order the crackdown. Zhao lived under house arrest until his death in 2005. The military crackdown not only destroyed human lives, but it also crushed the hope of many “establishment intellectuals” who were punished as “black hands” behind the students. These intellectuals had been “recruited” by the party and thought that “they could transform the establishment from within” by joining it (Hamrin and Cheek 1986, xii). In From Comrade to Citizen, historian Merle Goldman observed that the 1990s witnessed a transformation of Chinese political consciousness. During that decade, a significant number of Chinese intellectuals, both establishment and marginalized, “rejected the need for official and political patronage” and were now willing to work both inside and outside the party and the intellectual establishment to influence and challenge the entrenched regime (Goldman 2005, 228). She concluded that “the transition from comrade to citizen has begun” (234). It was against the backdrop of that transition that in 2008 Liu Xiaobo and his intellectual friends drafted and disseminated Charter 08, a citizens’ manifesto inspired by the Czechoslovak manifesto Charter 77. It was a bold collective public call for the end of one-party rule and the establishment of a system based on human rights and democracy. The initial 303 signatories included intellectuals from within the establishment and dissidents as well as midlevel officials and rural leaders. Charter 08 was the first public call for democratic transformation since 1989, addressed to the rulers in an attempt to convince them to initiate change themselves. The document did not call for a radical revolution, but for peaceful self-transformation. The strategic approach that Liu and the cosigners advocated was not entirely unrealistic or utopian. In the Soviet Union starting in the 1970s during the era of “stagnation,” through the collapse of the system in 1991, there were also “within-system dissidents,” communist reformers who, without confronting the system directly, were well aware of its fatal defects. Perhaps naïvely but with honest intentions, they believed it was possible to reform the system through incremental changes in the direction of Western-style social democracy. Such a desirable change might be accomplished, for example,

Striking a Rock with Eggs 37 

by gradually fulfilling the promises of the democratic-sounding constitutions that the Soviet Union and other communist states, including the PRC, had on paper. In Czechoslovakia, Charter 77 was the harbinger of the Velvet Revolution that peacefully ended communism in 1989 and installed Vaclav Havel as president of a democratic republic. In China, however, Charter 08 did not bring down the Leninist party state and herald a new era. Instead it triggered another round of purges, arrests, and repression to which Liu Xiaobo fell victim and that eventually led to his death. Liu Xiaobo’s life journey epitomized the evolution of political consciousness among Chinese intellectuals and ordinary Chinese citizens and their changing relationship with the state since the post-Mao reform era began in the late 1970s. Liu began as a literary critic in the “culture heat” and political awakening of the 1980s. He grew in stature as a participant and would-be peacemaker in the 1989 Tiananmen Movement, in the immediate aftermath of which he was first imprisoned and later “reeducated” in the 1990s in the Re-education through Labor Camp. His ultimate incarnation was that of a public intellectual devoted to China’s democratic transformation, an ideal embodied in Charter 08, a blueprint for peaceful democratic change. Liu’s life experience was shaped by Chinese history even as he himself sought to become an agent for change. In death as in life, his name remains taboo in China. His fate demonstrated the price of critiquing the authoritarian rule of the CCP. Since his death a large number of Chinese public intellectuals—professors, journalists, lawyers, nongovernment organization (NGO) practitioners who had been politically active in the past three decades since Tiananmen—reluctantly concluded that there was no room for dissent and no hope for change in China and decided to leave the country.

THE TIANANMEN CRISIS AND ITS AFTERMATH The 1989 Tiananmen Movement, triggered by the April 15, 1989, death of former CCP Secretary General Hu Yaobang, was started by Chinese intellectuals and students in cities throughout the country. It was soon joined by other citizens and comprised peaceful petitions, demonstrations, and hunger strikes. The movement ended on June 4 with a military crackdown on what the regime called a “counter-revolutionary riot.” Historian Tim Brook calls the military crackdown a “massacre,” noting that “using combat weapons against unarmed citizens was a moral failure” (Brook 1998, 4–5).

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Thirty years later, Tiananmen remains a taboo subject, banned from both the academic and popular spheres in China. Every year on the anniversary of June 4, the government intensifies its control. Citizens who dare to commemorate the events are subjected to surveillance and punishment. The Tiananmen Mothers are prohibited from openly mourning family members who died in the massacre, and exiles are prohibited from returning home, even for a parent’s funeral. Many leading 1980s liberal intellectuals who fled the country after the military crackdown died in exile. Responding to domestic and foreign critics, the post-Tiananmen regime constructed a narrative that portrays the Tiananmen Movement as a Western conspiracy to weaken and divide China, hence justifying its military crackdown as necessary for paving the way for China’s rise. Massive efforts were undertaken to imprint this official account into the collective national memory. The repertoire of critiques took on different forms depending on the status of those involved, and punishments varied accordingly. Within the CCP top leadership, Party Secretary General Zhao Ziyang, who refused to order the crackdown, was dismissed and lived under house arrest until his death in 2005. Another top insider, General Xu Qinxian, commander of the Thirty-Eighth Army of the People’s Liberation Army, who refused to participate in the crackdown, was court-martialed, imprisoned for five years, and expelled from the CCP. In the heat of the massacre, Wu Xiaoyong, deputy director of Radio Beijing, broadcast a statement internationally, asking the world to remember “the most tragic event happened in the Chinese capital, Beijing,” and describing soldiers spraying their bullets “indiscriminately at crowds in the street.”3 Wu was placed under house arrest after the crackdown. Two China Central Television anchors expressed their critique by dressing in black and reading scripts with sad facial expressions about the army’s successful crackdown on the “counter-revolutionary riot.” They were both removed from their positions. Immediately after the crackdown, a widespread purge of media personnel started. Propaganda officers of the People’s Liberation Army took control of all major media in Beijing. Although many editors attempted to protect their journalists, high-level decisions were soon taken to remove these editors so that the purge could proceed smoothly (Asia Watch 1990, 383). Along with many reporters, both the editor-in-chief and the director of People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the CCP, were dismissed because of their sympathetic attitudes toward the students. In Shanghai, Qin Benli, editor-in-chief of the Shijie jingji daobao (World Economic Herald), one of the country’s most liberal weekly newspapers during the 1980s, was placed under house arrest (He, 2014, 19).

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THE “RIOTERS” Little attention has been accorded the so-called June 4 Rioters. The global spotlight has mainly focused on student leaders and intellectuals in the Tiananmen Movement, and sympathy is shown for the Tiananmen Mothers. “June 4 Rioter” is a label the CCP regime affixed to ordinary Chinese people who responded to the massacre with fearless resistance. Some took to the streets to block the advancement of tanks and military vehicles in the final thrust of the army’s lethal action in Beijing; others organized strikes in cities in other provinces.4 Members of this nonelite group of protesters were handed severe sentences, and many received the death penalty or life imprisonment. This punishment was in striking contrast to punishments accorded to student leaders and intellectuals. For example, Wang Dan, a Beijing University student who topped the government’s “21 most wanted” list of college students, received a four-years sentence and was eventually allowed to leave China; he later completed a PhD at Harvard University. The CCP was particularly fearful of the so-called rioters’ organized actions because the party had mobilized people in the 1920s and 1930s in its struggle to wrest power from its political rival the Chinese Nationalists (KMT). For the past thirty years, the invisible group of “rioters” has mainly been out of sight, demonized, marginalized, and forgotten, lacking even a place in the Tiananmen stories reported by journalists and documented by scholars and NGO organizations. Not until 2019, the thirtieth anniversary of Tiananmen, was a collection of court files of 108 June 4 Rioters compiled and printed with the support of an NGO organization (Support Network 2019).5 This compilation helps fill a gap in knowledge about the decisions and actions of an important cohort in 1989 and the subsequent punishments they suffered. Among the 108 on the list, Li Wangyang was probably the most well known, not in 1989 but after his suspicious death in 2012. In 1989 Li was a worker and labor rights activist in Hunan Province. Upon hearing the news of the brutal crackdown, he called for a general strike and organized a memorial for the victims. Charged for “spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement,” he was sentenced to thirteen years’ imprisonment. When he was released on medical parole in 2000, he had lost his hearing and sight in his left eye after years of torture and solitary confinement. In 2001 Li was sentenced again to ten years after his brief freedom, and this time charged with “subversion of state power,” the same charge as Liu Xiaobo. The court verdict included evidence of his long-distance phone calls with human rights activists outside China and his acceptance of US$1,000 from an NGO in the United States.6 In 2011, Li was

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finally free after serving a total of twenty-one years in prison. But a few days after he gave interviews to a Hong Kong TV station and a French radio station, he was found dead on his feet with a strip of cloth around his neck that was tied to a window bar. In these interviews, he advocated a multiparty democratic system for China, demanded the vindication of the Tiananmen protesters, and asserted that he didn’t regret his activism—“I would never turn back even if beheaded.”7 Authorities claimed that he committed suicide. After Li had been “suicided,” Chinese activists declared on social media that they had no plans to commit suicide. Such practices continue to this day. Dong Shenkun is another June 4 Rioter who came into public view on the thirtieth anniversary, in part because of a video interview conducted by a scholar who chose to remain anonymous, and in part because of his own will that the silenced voices of the “June 4 Rioters” should be heard.8 In 1989 Dong was a worker in his late twenties and the father of a three-year-old son. Like many ordinary citizens in Beijing at that time, he identified with the students’ demands during the Tiananmen Movement and thought that together they were making history, even though he saw himself as someone who “did not get much education.” When he returned home in the middle of the night, his clothes were soaked with blood from helping the wounded. Distressed after a night of witnessing the killings by the army, he cried with his family members and then decided to leave home again at dawn, heading to the square.9 On his way he joined the crowd, and someone passed him a small rag soaked in gasoline that was meant to set fire to a military vehicle. However, a report in the Washington Post stated that he had actually not set anything on fire and that his confession had been forced (Fifield 2019). The discrepancy could come from something lost in translation, or it could also be that Dong wanted to clear his name as a “rioter.” Dong served seventeen years in prison for arson (he originally had been sentenced to death with two years’ suspension). His father passed away before Dong was released from prison, and his son, now in his thirties, older than Dong was in 1989, barely speaks with his “rioter” father. Dong could not make ends meet. No one would hire him with his criminal record, and the police never stopped harassing him.10 As a further punishment, Dong’s passport was taken away after the media interviews appeared, which means he would never be able to leave the country legally. His only door to freedom was slammed shut for the rest of his life. He could have remained silent, as many had in the past three decades, but he asserted that “the government has an official strategy of trying to erase the public memory, but as long as I’m alive, I will try to tell my story and what I have witnessed. It might seem futile and many people don’t want to know about it in the first place, but I will not give up” (Fifield 2019).

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One of the best-known “rioters” of 1989 was not listed in the newly published document of 2019: Yu Dongyue. When millions of citizens filled the streets all over China demanding political reforms, Yu was a twenty-one-year-old art editor for the Liuyang Daily, a local newspaper in his native town in Hunan Province. When students went on a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square on May 13, Yu Dongyue and his two friends, Yu Zhijian and Lu Decheng, had been meeting to discuss what was happening in Beijing. On May 17, after staying up all night talking, they decided to go to Beijing. At the Changsha railway station, they gave speeches and received donations from sympathizers for their trip. Boarding the train heading to the capital, the three men, subsequently known in Chinese as the Three Gentlemen of Tiananmen, had no way of knowing that theirs was a one-way trip. Soon after they would be spending the best part of their youth in prison. Yu Dongyue is living testimony to the nonrevolutionary nature of the Tiananmen Movement. After Yu and his two friends arrived in Beijing, as an expression of their opposition to the Great Helmsman, as Mao Zedong had been known, on May 23, 1989, they threw eggshells filled with paint at Mao’s giant portrait overlooking Tiananmen Square. Instead of hailing them for their audacity, the students turned the trio over to the authorities. While the three men thought that the cult of Mao and communist dictatorship were the roots of China’s social and political problems, the students wanted to separate themselves from other social groups instead of attempting to form a grand alliance to overthrow the regime, as the Beijing government asserted later. They also thought that strategically they would avoid giving the government any excuse for a crackdown. Some students even suspected that Yu and his friends were provocateurs who had been sent by the government to create a pretext for a crackdown. There is a photo from 1989 in which students hold a banner inscribed with this sentence: “This was not done by the students or the people,” referring to the desecration of Mao’s portrait. In fact, Yu and his friends had not tried to run away. They took responsibility for their action. They had assumed that the students were on their side. Ten days after the three men were turned over to the authorities by the students, both sides were confronted by the same battlefield weapons of the People’s Liberation Army. Like Li Wangyang, Yu Dongyue was charged with “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” and sentenced to twenty years. Lu Decheng was sentenced to sixteen years, and Yu Zhijian to life in prison. The actual time these men served was: sixteen, nine, and eleven years, respectively. Lu escaped to Thailand in 2006 and was later granted asylum in Canada. Three years later, before the twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen, Yu Zhijian and his wife, who was pregnant with their son at the time, managed to smuggle

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themselves out together with Yu Dongyue. They hoped that they could get medical treatment for Yu Dongyue so that he would recover from his mental disability. Yu Dongyue’s younger sister ran away with her brother so that someone could take care of him. At great personal cost, she left behind her former husband and her child, neither of whom was allowed to leave China to be reunited with her. The Three Gentlemen of Tiananmen might not have anticipated the severe punishment that they later received in 1989, just as the students of Tiananmen didn’t expect such a brutal military action, but they were not naïve about the repression of dissent in China. One of the Three Gentlemen, Yu Zhijian, who tried to restore Yu Dongyue to the man he had been in 1989, died in Indianapolis in 2017 at the age of fifty-four. The announcement about Yu Zhijian’s death was accompanied by a photo of his body in a big cardboard box with words “handle with care” and his wife kneeling in front.11 On one Chinese website a comment reads: “garbage dead” (the original comment was written in English); another one reads, “traitor’s ending.” In 1989, Yu was a young, talented art journalist who went to Tiananmen Square with his notebook, his pen, and a camera. He and his two friends expressed their political criticism in an act of performative art—throwing paint on the portrait of a dictator who was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of ordinary Chinese people; he was handed over to the police by students who shared the same dream for a better China, and eventually sent to prison to be humiliated, tortured, and beaten. When he finally regained freedom in 2006, he could no longer recognize his family members and friends. He is now a mentally disabled man on foreign soil, but finally free.

THE INTELLECTUALS AND THE “BLACK HANDS” The brutality of the Tiananmen crackdown was shocking even to those who knew the history and still had memories of the atrocities perpetrated by the CCP since the establishment of the PRC. This group of intellectuals collectively survived the trauma of 1989 and are still living under its impact. The economic reforms instituted after Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour in 1992, which aimed at salvaging the CCP’s legitimacy after Tiananmen, were effective in improving the livelihood of most of the population and reaffirming party control despite the increasing social and political problems that emerged in Chinese society. The value vacuum in post-1989 China induced many members of the educated elite to succumb to cynicism and materialism. However, a few felt

Striking a Rock with Eggs 43 

the urgent need to respond to the crisis the massacre had created in Chinese society. Yang Jisheng, former senior reporter of the Xinhua News Agency who devoted two decades after 1989 to finish his book Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958–1962, was one such person. He explained in the introduction how the military crackdown became a “profound awakening” for him: “the blood of those young students cleansed my brain of all the lies I had accepted over the previous decades. As a journalist, I strove to report the truth, as a scholar I felt a responsibility to restore historical truth for others who had been deceived” (Yang 2008, 12). In 1991, Yang worked with other older-generation establishment reformers to create a liberal forum, a monthly journal called Yanhuang Chunqiu (China Through the Ages), publishing articles that contested the official version of CCP history. Meanwhile, artists such as Hu Jie, with the support of other intellectuals, started to make independent documentaries to rescue memories of major historical events throughout PRC history, including the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957, the Great Famine, and the Cultural Revolution, documenting stories and voices that would otherwise be invisible and unheard, obscured by the grand uplifting narratives of the official accounts of history. In 2013, internal CCP Document Number Nine listed “historical nihilism” as one of seven serious ideological problems. The term, defined as “distorting the history of our party and New China in the name of reassessment,” has become a catchphrase condemning any deviation of history but the official one. Accused of promoting “historical nihilism,” Yanhuang Chunqiu was forcibly taken over by the authorities in 2016 after twenty-five years of publication. The incident coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the Cultural Revolution and became an indication of the misappropriation of history in the PRC. In 2016, Yang was presented an Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University for being an “inspiration to all who seek to document the truth in the face of influences, forces and regimes that may push against such transparency” (Phillips 2016). Yang, needless to say, was banned from leaving China to receive the award. Though each a generation apart, Yang Jisheng, Liu Xiaobo, and the Tiananmen students all followed the tradition of Confucian dissent, previously discussed, to work on reform within the system. The “rioters” seem to be the main group that was not limited and constrained by such ideas of loyal dissent. Ordinary Chinese citizens were not steeped in the Confucian tradition like their bettereducated compatriots. Labeled by the CCP as one of the notorious so-called black hands, Liu Xiaobo could have taken a different path. He was a visiting

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scholar at Columbia University when the Tiananmen Movement erupted. On the same day the blistering April 26 editorial in the People’s Daily designating the movement as “counter-revolutionary” was published, Liu had just landed in Tokyo from New York City. If he had chosen to return to New York on that day, he would have been granted one of the “June 4 Green Cards” under the Chinese Students Protection Act passed in 1992, which enabled some 80,000 Chinese to remain in the United States. Liu’s life trajectory would have been very different had he opted to remain in the United States. In his writings after 1989, Liu Xiaobo repeatedly expressed his strong sense of guilt. For example, when referring to a “confession” that he was forced to write during his eighteen-month stay in prison, he felt that he had “not only sold out [his] personal dignity, but betrayed the blood sacrifices of the massacre victims” (Liu, Xiaobo 2012, 11). He also felt guilty that it was the ordinary people, not the elites, who had died, had been wounded on June 4, or had received prison terms of more than ten years: I myself was one of the “black hands;” I have been incarcerated three times since 1989, but my total time of lost freedom, adding the three terms together, still amounts to less than six years. In raising this topic, I am not trying to encourage a competition over whose “sacrifice” was greatest. . . . How was it that university students and high-level intellectuals led the 1989 movement, but when the dust settled all the people who were massacred, went out to rescue the wounded, or received heavy sentences were common people? Why is it that we scarcely hear the voices of the people who paid the heaviest prices . . . ? (Liu, Xiaobo 2012, 10)

After he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the authorities gave Liu the choice to leave China or go to prison. But he refused to leave the country. His sense of guilt and his belief in the importance of having a martyr for the cause of Chinese human rights decided his course of action. The only time that he agreed to leave the country was after he knew that he was dying. He wanted to use the final days he had left to secure his wife’s freedom, but their request was denied. Professor Fang Lizhi, another “black hand” on the most-wanted list, was an astrophysicist and vice president of the University of Science and Technology of China in the 1980s. His liberal ideas inspired the generation of the Tiananmen students. He entered the U.S. Embassy at midnight on June 6, 1989, and took refuge there for 384 days. He was eventually allowed to leave China after prolonged diplomatic negotiations between the United States and China. Some

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people criticized Professor Fang’s supposed lack of courage for not being a martyr on the street but instead hiding and eventually leaving China. Professor Fang himself recalled his hesitation about seeking sanctuary in the U.S. Embassy, concerned that the regime would claim that foreign forces were involved in the student movement (Fang 2017, 290). Professor Fang’s decision was probably best explained by Xu Wenli, a veteran of the Democracy Wall Movement of the late 1970s. When Xu left China, people challenged him, reminding him that he used to say he would stay in jail until the CCP collapsed but that he was already leaving China. He responded that he started to realize that democracy should first be a way of living. He said he had been in prison for sixteen years—his daughter lived a life without a father and his wife without her husband. He said that he hadn’t been democratic to his own family.12 In addition to concern for his family, from whom he had been separated for decades because of the Anti-Rightist Campaign and the Cultural Revolution, Professor Fang’s decision to leave China may also have to do with his values concerning global citizenship. In a speech he gave in 1989 on patriotism and nationalism, he said that “Einstein was a good model here. . . . He was a Jew, but he did not feel compelled under every circumstance to speak as a Jew, but just as a human being” (Fang 1990, xxii). When Fang was still hiding in the U.S. Embassy, he received invitations from academic institutions to join them. Among all the options, he chose the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where Einstein found a haven for his work. Professor Fang’s decision earned him twenty-three extra years to continue his scholarship in astrophysics in a country with intellectual freedom until he passed away in exile in 2012.

THE TIANANMEN MOTHERS The Tiananmen Mothers group, cofounded by Professor Ding Zilin, whose seventeen-year-old son, Jiang Jielian, was shot and killed during the massacre, spearheaded a campaign to collect information about the victims despite escalating government repression over the years. Professor Ding presented the initial results of her information in her book In Search of the Victims of June 4, published in Hong Kong in 2005. The sixteen names that Ding had collected in 1993 had grown to 202 by 2013, but the list will never be complete. The list of victims is not arranged alphabetically but by the date when the information came to light. For example, after Xiao Bo, a Peking University lecturer, was killed, the authorities warned Xiao Bo’s wife to remain silent about her husband’s death—otherwise she

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and her twin infant sons would not be allowed to remain in their campus housing (Ding 2005, 84). It was not until 1993, when Ding reached her, that her husband’s name was added to the list. While the Beijing regime set in motion the state machinery to erase or distort any memory of June 4, the Tiananmen Mothers group, family members of the victims and survivors of the massacre, have been fighting a protracted war of memory against forgetting. The fear created by the massacre is pervasive and long lasting. After the twenty-eight-year-old son of one family was killed, the boyfriend of his sister broke up with her. When she later began a relationship with another boy, he too abandoned her after learning of her family’s past. She was politically toxic in the eyes of many. She and her mother decided that she would never again mention her brother to anyone she planned to date. She is now married with a son, but her husband still has no idea about the death, or even the existence, of his brother-in-law (He 2014). In 2011 China’s official English-language newspaper, the China Daily, published a story headlined “Tiananmen Massacre a Myth.”13 Citing the release of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables that indicated that there had been no bloodshed in the square, the article claimed that “Tiananmen remains the classic example of the shallowness and bias in most Western media reporting, and of governmental black information operations seeking to control those media. China is too important to be a victim of this nonsense.” This state-sponsored myth is challenged by Ding’s list of victims. Maps created based on information provided by the Tiananmen Mothers that pinpoint the locations of the documented killings and the hospitals where the victims died show that state violence was widespread throughout central Beijing.14 Since their establishment, the Tiananmen Mothers have been demanding the right to peacefully mourn their loved ones in public, an end to the persecution of victims’ families, the release of all those imprisoned for their roles in the 1989 protests, and a full public accounting of the military crackdown. In 2006, the group called for “truth and reconciliation.” But so far the regime has turned a deaf ear to their requests. In 2012, a Tiananmen father, Ya Weilin, hanged himself in an empty Beijing parking lot several days before the Tiananmen anniversary, making his final dramatic statement without ever seeing justice done on behalf of his son. Ya’s son Ya Aiguo is number 131 on Ding’s list of victims. In a 2004 video testimony, Ya appeared sad but determined. His wife asked, “Why did you use real guns and bullets on your people? Even if you kill a chicken, or a lamb, you should apologize and compensate, right? Such a big China, such a big CCP, you killed my son,

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but you didn’t even say sorry. Are we citizens not allowed to say a single word?” (Testimonies of Victim Families of June 4 Massacre) Members of the Tiananmen Mothers. group are not just family members of the victims, but also survivors of the massacre (Liu 2012). Among them is Fang Zheng, whose legs were crushed by a tank while he was trying to push a freshman schoolmate to safety during the Tiananmen crackdown. Fang was a senior at Beijing Sports College when he participated in the Tiananmen Movement in 1989. He and other students were peacefully returning to their schools when a tank chased them on the morning of June 4 after the army cleared the square. He could have crossed the road divider before the tank ran him over, but he was trying to push a schoolmate to safety. Amid a nationwide crackdown, Fang needed the schoolmate whose life he saved to be his eyewitness to prove that he was not a “rioter” as the authorities labeled him. But she refused, out of fear. The authorities forced Fang to say that he had been run over by a car, not a tank. When he refused, he was denied his graduation certificate and bachelor’s degree. After surviving twenty years of harassment and surveillance, he left China in 2009 and now resides in the San Francisco Bay area. Fang Zheng has been driving for Uber with his artificial legs to support his family of three daughters. He remains outspoken, demanding truth and justice for the victims of the massacre. Earlier this year, when his father died in China, Fang and his daughters were denied Chinese visas to attend the funeral. The authorities initially issued visas but soon canceled them. No one would have blamed Mr. Fang if he had remained quiet after he left China. Some of the victims’ families have chosen that path. But Fang refuses to be silenced.

THE NO-NAME TIANANMEN VETERANS Many rights activists, both inside and outside China, including those who are imprisoned and those who are quietly working on NGO projects, are veterans of the Tiananmen Movement. They were not high-profile leaders in 1989, but those days have changed their life trajectories profoundly. Denied the right to freely express their views, Chinese citizens resorted to acts of commemorative resistance. In 2014, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, Professor Hao Jian of the Beijing Film Academy organized a private symposium marking this important anniversary. Five of the participants were detained afterward. In 2015, Chen Yunfei, a student at Beijing Agricultural University in 1989, was arrested after visiting the grave of a Tiananmen victim and

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was later sentenced to a four-year imprisonment. In 2016, four Chinese citizens were likewise detained after putting labels with a Tank Man image on bottles of Baijiu, a traditional Chinese spirit, to commemorate the twenty-seventh anniversary. The four men were held without trial until April 2019, when they were finally sentenced to prison terms (He 2019a). The last defendant, Chen Bing, was convicted on April 4 and sentenced to three and a half years of imprisonment. Chen Bing’s twin brother, Chen Wei, a student participant in the Tiananmen Movement and a signatory of Charter 08, is now serving nine years in prison, having been charged with “subverting the state.” This is his third prison sentence since 1989. Chen Bing’s defense lawyer in the liquor-label case said that parents of two Tiananmen victims, Wu Guofeng and Xiao Jie, both college students killed during the Tiananmen massacre, had provided accounts to support Chen, but the court dismissed them peremptorily. Chen had been taking care of the elderly couples as if they were his own parents. These Chinese citizens are not known to the world like the late Liu Xiaobo, but they, too, have devoted their lives to the unfinished cause of 1989.

The narrative accounts of individual stories in this chapter show that the repertoire of critique differs according to the character of the crisis. China faces a long-term crisis of legitimacy for the CCP dictatorship that its economic achievements and growing military and political power have merely obscured rather than resolved. After the military crackdown, political activists and groups tried different strategies to promote political changes in China. It may have appeared that they were continuing to adhere to the tradition of Confucian dissent in their efforts to establish new institutions and abolish one-party rule. In fact, theirs might simply be a more pragmatic and strategic approach to convince those in power to allow a system of check and balances. It was akin to the situation in Tiananmen Square when Liu Xiaobo was smashing the guns. It was an unequal match between the rocks and the eggs. Advocating violence would just give the regime an easy excuse to clamp down entirely on any and all forms of political activism. Moreover, liberal intellectuals from China were well aware of the destruction and bloodshed that revolutions and violent political campaigns entailed. They much preferred peaceful transformation if at all possible. The CCP could have availed itself of such opportunities for peaceful change in the past two decades, when the regime was becoming powerful as a result of increasing economic growth. But once again, those in power missed this window of opportunity. With the tightening of political discourse inside China under Xi Jinping’s rule, through which the

Striking a Rock with Eggs 49 

slightest voice of dissent is silenced in prison or in exile, the discontented and the disenfranchised, deprived of all hope for reasoned discourse with those in power, will be left with neither intent nor reason to negotiate and compromise. Instead their accumulated anger and grievances may explode in violence such as that in the streets of Hong Kong beginning in the summer of 2019. In return, the CCP may increasingly tighten up political control, further reducing political space for civil society development. The imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020, which was followed by arrests and trials of seasoned political leaders of society, is the worst outcome for a social movement that had intended to fix a crisis. Now Hong Kong is on a fast train to losing the freedom it had enjoyed, which, ironically, was a legacy of British colonial rule. Between British colonialism and CCP authoritarianism, the people of Hong Kong have voiced a clear choice. Many scholars who have analyzed comparable historical cases in other countries, including the communist dictatorships of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, have concluded that, lacking free speech, a free press, and democratic means of rectifying deep-seated systemic defects, such authoritarian polities, no matter how strong their appearance, cannot endure indefinitely. Sooner or later, they will succumb to their internal contradictions. Without the basic civic freedom to criticize, crisis without critique will engender a cascade of ensuing crises until finally social pressures explode. The sleeping volcano erupts. China’s current leadership rejects such thinking. Criticism and dissent are repugnant to them. They express confidence that their hybrid system of authoritarian control and state-led developmental capitalism—what they call the China Model of governance—is the high road to power and wealth, and a better model for other countries than Western liberal democracy. Authoritarian rulers elsewhere are attracted to this argument. Therefore, the China Model, however flawed and repellent from a liberal democratic perspective, has the capacity to profoundly affect the world. There is a further complication. Because China in the past was itself a victim of Western and Japanese imperialism, the post-Tiananmen Chinese leadership has been able to play on the historical guilt of many Western intellectuals and others to present itself not as the perpetrators of the Tiananmen massacre and other atrocities that the CCP committed during its seventy-plus-year rule, but rather as the historical victim that is now rectifying historical injustices. The criminals cast themselves as victims, as weak and powerless despite their responsibility for many past as well as current atrocities, including the confinement of 1 million Uyghurs to virtual concentration camps in Xinjiang Province. And through Chinese state-funded organizations like the Confucius

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Institutes and through informal networks involving young Chinese nationals studying outside China, well-meaning in their patriotism but taught systematically to confuse state and nation, the Beijing government is exporting its propaganda to silence its critics outside China, appropriating democracy toward its own ends and undermining democracy as it is understood in democratic countries around the world. The coronavirus is a wake-up call for the world—it would have been avoided if the medical professionals who tried to warn the public had not been punished and silenced. The whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang died from the disease that he had meant to warn us about but was punished instead. Despite repeated repression, the past three decades witnessed a war of memory against forgetting, a struggle between the powerful and the powerless. Since 1989 commemoration activities have been organized in major cities around the world around Tiananmen anniversaries. The annual June 4 candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year. The image of the candles lit in the six packed soccer fields has become iconic like the Tank Man, reminding us that Tiananmen is not just about repression, but also about hope. NOTES 1. Liu Xiaobo’s close friend, Wen Kejian, a Charter 08 signatory, was not allowed to visit his dying friend despite multiple attempts. Tom Phillips, “Liu Xiaobo Entering Final Hours, Say Friends of Dying Chinese Dissident,” The Guardian, July 13, 2017, https://www -prisoner. 2. Every year on April 29, the anniversary of Lin Zhao’s death, the area is locked down. Feng Gao, “Police Detain Chinese Activists Marking 50th Anniversary of Lin Zhao’s Death,” trans. Luisetta Mudie, Radio Free Asia, April 30, 2018, /activists-04302018114334.html/. 3. “Listen to This Haunting Broadcast Made by Radio Beijing on June 4, 1989,” Shanghaiist, June 4, 2013. 4. Support Network for the Persecuted in China (Australia), eds., Court Files of Civil Disobedience Against Government Violence on June 4th, 1989 (Hong Kong: Mirror Books, 2019). 5. Support Network for the Persecuted in China, Court Files of Civil Disobedience Against Government Violence on June 4th, 1989. 6. Support Network for the Persecuted in China, Court Files of Civil Disobedience Against Government Violence on June 4th, 1989, 48. 7. Li Wangyang’s last interview on June 2, 2012, =FzXRr6GFQHQ. 8. Dong was interviewed by the Washington Post and the Associated Press through some secret arrangement before the anniversary in 2019.

Striking a Rock with Eggs 51  9. Dong Shengkun, 10. Support Network for the Persecuted in China, Court Files of Civil Disobedience Against Government Violence on June 4th, 1989, 24. 11. Rowena He, “Surviving Tiananmen: The Price of Dissent in China,” The Nation, June 4, 2019, 12. Xu Wenli is a dissident who spent sixteen years in prison in China and was exiled to the United States in 2002. He is currently a senior fellow at Brown University. In his speech delivered at Brown University’s commencement in May 2003, Xu said democracy is not just a political system, but “a way of living, essential as bread, air and water.” 13. “Tiananmen Massacre a Myth,” China Daily, July 14, 2011, /opinion/2011-07/14/content_12898720.htm. 14. The two maps were created in 2009 (in English) and are also available at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, “June 3–4, 2009: 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre—Map & List of Victims,” 2015, -tiananmen-square-massacre-maps-victims-name-lists/.

REFERENCES Asia Watch. 1990. “Punishment Season: Human Rights in China after Martial Law.” In The Broken Mirror: China after Tianaanmen, ed. George Hicks, 369–389. Essex: Longman Current Affairs. Branigan, Tania. 2013. “Liu Xiaobo’s Brother-in-Law Liu Hui to Serve 11 Years After Losing Appeal.” The Guardian, August 16. -11-years-liu-xiaobo. Brook, Timothy. 1998. Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Cheng, Eddie. 2009. Standoff at Tiananmen: How Chinese Students Shocked the World with a Magnificent Movement for Democracy and Liberty That Ended in the Tragic Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. Highlands Ranch, CO: Sensys, 2009. “Chinese Charter 08 Signatories Awarded Homo Homini: Speeches by Vaclav Havel, Xu Youyu, and Cui Weiping,” Prague, March 13, 2009. Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “June 3–4, 2009: 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre—Map & List of Victims.” 2015. -anniversary-of-tiananmen-square-massacre-maps-victims-name-lists/. Ding, Zilin. 2005. Xun Fang Liu Si Shou Nan Zhe. Hong Kong: Open Magazine. Fang, Lizhi, 1990. “On Patriotism and Global Citizenship.” Foreword to The Broken Mirror: China after Tiananmen, ed. George Hicks. Essex: Longman. Fang, Lizhi. 2017. The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State, trans. Perry Link. New York: St. Martin’s. Fifield, Anna. 2019. “He Spent 17 Years in Prison After Tiananmen. But He Will Not Be Silent.” Washington Post, May 31. -in-prison-after-tiananmen-but-he-will-not-be-silent/2019/05/30/66fd2510-7709-11e9-a7bf -c8a43b84ee31_story.html.

52 Social Movements Gao, Feng. 2018. “Police Detain Chinese Activists Marking 50th Anniversary of Lin Zhao’s Death.” Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Radio Free Asia, April 30. /china/activists-04302018114334.html/. Goldman, Merle. 2005. From Comrade to Citizen: The Struggle for Political Rights in China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hamrin, Carol, and Timothy Cheek, eds. 1986. China’s Establishment Intellectuals. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe. Han, Minzhu, and Hua Sheng, eds. 1990. Cries for Democracy: Writings and Speeches from the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. He, Rowena Xiaoqing. 2014. Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China. New York, Palgrave Macmillan. He, Rowena Xiaoqing. 2019a. “Never Forget. Never Give Up: The Tiananmen Movement, 30 Years Later.” Globe and Mail, April 22. -never-give-up-the-tiananmen-movement-30-years-later/. He, Rowena. 2019b. “Surviving Tiananmen: The Price of Dissent in China.” The Nation, June 4. Johnson, Ian. 2018. “Breaking Eggs Against a Rock.” New York Review of Books, September 27. https:// LaFraniere, Sharon. 2010. “Wife Detained After Visiting Nobel Winner.” New York Times, October 10. Lian, Xi. 2018. Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China. New York: Basic. Link, Perry. 1992. Evening Chats in Beijing: Probing China’s Predicament. New York: Norton. “Listen to This Haunting Broadcast Made by Radio Beijing on June 4, 1989.” 2013. Shanghaiist, June 4. Liu, Binyan. 2006. “The Second Kind of Loyalty,” trans. Richard W. Bodman. In Two Kinds of Truth: Stories and Reportage from China, ed. P. Link, 149–207. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Liu, Juliana. 2017. “Activists ‘Held for Liu Xiaobo Memorial.’ ” BBC News, July 24. .com/news/world-asia-china-40702013. Liu, Xiaobo. 2009. “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement.” Nobel Peace Prize speech. Last Retrieved on August 15, 2021: Liu, Xiaobo. 2012. “Listen Carefully to the Voices of the Tiananmen Mothers.” In No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems, ed. Perry Link, Tienchi Martin-Liao, and Liu Xia, 3–20. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Madsen, Richard. 2015. “Confucianism and Dissent on Core Beliefs.” In Dissent on Core Beliefs: Religious and Secular Perspectives, ed. Simone Chambers and Peter Nosco, 186–200. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Phillips, Tom. 2016. “Chinese Journalist Banned from Flying to US to Accept a Prize for His Work.” The Guardian, February 15. -banned-from-flying-to-us-to-accept-a-prize-for-his-work. Support Network for the Persecuted in China (Australia), eds. 2019. Court Files of Civil Disobedience Against Government Violence on June 4th, 1989. Hong Kong: Mirror Books. Testimonies of Victim Families of June 4 Massacre, Part 6. Accessed August 15, 2021, https://www

Striking a Rock with Eggs 53  “Tiananmen Massacre a Myth.” 2011. China Daily, July 14. /2011-07/14/content_12898720.htm. Wang, Zhen. 2017. “Liu Xiaobo Entering Final Hours, Say Friends of Dying Chinese Dissident.” The Guardian, July 13. -china-us-pressure-free-political-prisoner. Wu, Renhua. 2009. Liusi shijian zhong de jianyan budui. Los Angeles: Zhenxiang. Wu, Renhua. 2014. Liusi Tiananmen xiexing qingchang neimu. Taiwan: Yunchen wenhua [Asian culture]. Yang, Jisheng. 2008. Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958–1962, ed. Edward Friedman, Guo Jian, and Stacy Mosher, trans. Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

3 Undoing the Rule of Market Laws Social Critique and the Making of Normative Futures RO DR I G O CO R DE RO

III. Sentence Completion: In exercises 37 through 54, complete the sentence using the appropriate elements. Mark the answer that best fits the sentence . . . the thousand amendments they’ve made to it, the Chilean 37. Constitution of 1980 is a piece of shit.

A) After B) Due to C) In spite of D) Thanks to E) Notwithstanding Alejandro Zambra, Multiple Choice


n the months of August and September 2011, Chile grabbed international news headlines due to the sudden emergence of massive protests of students demanding “free public education.” The movement confronted the newly elected right-wing government of the billionaire president, Sebastián Piñera, with the largest protests since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1989. As students paralyzed university campuses and secondary schools for more than seven months, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens and families

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gathered in demonstrations across the country’s main cities, they articulated a powerful critique of the highly privatized educational system imposed by the dictatorship and then consolidated by the neoliberal policies of social-democratic governments. In this chapter, I explore one of the most salient but less discussed aspects that emerged out of this struggle: the students’ critical engagement with legal rationality and the complex sociolegal framework that recast education in an economic register as an asset rather than a right.1 My argument is that their struggle for free public education is not simply a moral protest against neoliberalism and market forces but also entails a broader political challenge to the role of law in the economization of society, or rather the monopoly of what may be called the “economic rule of law.”2 The inquiry thus explores how the critique of marketized education—deployed on the streets and in formal institutional settings (such as parliamentary commissions, the Constitutional Court, and the like)—makes apparent the deep crisis of the educational system, but also leads to a resignification of the political meanings of law to empower other possible futures. To make my argument clear, a bit of background is necessary. The student uprising started as a minor complaint over the government’s delay in handling financial resources for student aid. Two months after the beginning of the 2011 academic year, thousands of low-income students had not received the monthly stipend to cover the daily costs of food and transport. The scale of the negligence manifestly contradicted the president’s efficiency-driven rhetoric of a new style of public management, and it showed the government’s unresponsiveness to longterm demands for increasing the $2.5 daily allowance, an amount with which a student could hardly afford a decent meal. This episode, as circumscribed as it was to an issue of monetary transferences, became a whirlpool of accumulated frustrations linked to the state’s indifference toward students’ social experiences of abandonment, material insecurity, and financial burden. A second episode acted as a political catalyst for a yearlong process of protest and critique, as it brought into full light the contradictions and irrationalities of a system that sees education through the epistemic lenses, normative categories, and harsh rules of the market. The conflict involved the selling of 50 percent of the property of a small private university, Universidad Central, to an investment company owned by militants of the Christian Democracy Party. The institution, known for its public vocation and democratic structure of government led by a council of faculty members, was about to experience a radical transformation: the university would now be controlled by an investment fund and expanded through the creation of associated commercial firms in which faculty members

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could participate as shareholders.3 The organized action of the faculty and the fierce resistance of the students, who went on strike and denounced the illegality of the covert operation in every public forum, managed to stop a $45 million deal and the transformation of the university into a financial holding. The Universidad Central case became a symbol of the extent to which higher education institutions had become extremely lucrative business opportunities,4 paradigmatic of the distortions provoked by the unruly rules of market laws in education. The student movement used this case to draw public attention to the building blocks of the political economy that for decades had aligned state policies, corporate interests, and legal mechanisms in the making of a multimillion-dollar industry, as well as to the experience of a growing number of low- and middle-class families whose adherence to the ideals of “social mobility” and “personal sacrifice” were being paid in the common currency of debt.5 While government officials and most members of the main political parties remained silent about the looming social crisis that these episodes revealed, students began to raise questions that, at first, looked silly, even infantile, in the eyes of the elites, who were convinced of the long-term benefits of a market economy. Why should education be sold and paid for like a pair of shoes? Why must the value of university degrees be tied to interest rates set by banks in contracts drafted by financial and legal experts? How to untie such a tight nexus between education, debt, and profit? Why cannot the meaning of education be considered and justified as something other than a consumer good, an object of measurement and investment, or a source of economic valorization and accumulation? Why should public money aimed at funding education end up in private hands? What prevents us from even conceiving free higher education for all as a defensible normative ideal? Everywhere the students looked for answers to these vexing questions, they found a complicated entanglement of institutions, concepts, rules, experts, and policies knit together by the normative authority of the law.6 Students did not initially foresee the law as relevant to their struggle. However, as they advanced the diagnosis of the educational crisis and as their critique of the perverse effects of the dominance of market laws gained traction in public opinion, they also became more aware of the significance of legal devices and legal reasoning in the political ordering of the educational system. One of the main leaders of the 2011 student revolt, Giorgio Jackson, put it eloquently: “this issue became evident, truly palpable to all of us because after each new demand we made [to the government], we hit our heads against the walls of the Constitution.”7 This image

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explicitly evokes the experience of confrontation with the most durable aspects of the social-political order inherited from Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship: the legal buttressing of private interests and the political divorce of education from democratic life. Yet it also draws attention, quite unintentionally, to one of the original meanings of the concept of law rooted in the Greek notion of nomos (i.e., the walls of the city). As the notion of nomos implies, walls function as the material and epistemic reminder of an act of legal ordering, an original division and distribution of space in which a concrete form of life is made possible, while others are excluded or disqualified.8 Drawing from this image, I shall pay attention to three moments when the student movement engaged with the walls of the law. First, I discuss the critique of “debt” as the principle that defines student experience, inasmuch as the concept enacts, through the juridical interplay of private loan contracts, a regime of valuation that credits and discredits students based on their capacity to pay. Second, I highlight the critique of the vocabulary of economic “freedom” as the normative bedrock upon which the educational system is supposed to operate and the constitutional protection of such a conception as it sustains an economic-juridical framework that guarantees profit making rather than the realization of rights. Third, I examine the critique of the disempowerment of “democracy” produced by a political system that isolates itself from those unofficial, subaltern, and nonspecialized forms of knowledge in the process of the constitution of norms (lawmaking), which narrows down the space of normative reflection to a domain of definitions coded in the language of legislators and experts. Each of these moments of critique, as I wish to show, brings into focus the historicity of some key devices that have facilitated the juridical consolidation of market laws in Chilean society as well as in other places of the Global South. From this vantage point, the Chilean student uprising should not be seen as a single event attached to the peculiarities of a local story. What the student critique of the economic rule of law actually reveals, I think, is a concrete mode of engagement with the pathological effects of neoliberal globalization and the power of its juridical avatars. By putting the crisis of marketized education under the lens of a social critique of law, the student uprising challenged the meanings and institutional forms of key concepts. This critique should be seen as one of many critical responses to crises that are happening throughout the world; it is connected to global movements that struggle to expand the imagination of society against the fictio iuris of neoliberal reason.

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BOUNDED BY DEBT: COUNTING AND MISCOUNTING THE CRISIS One of the most salient features of the public discourse about the system of higher education in a country such as Chile is the extent to which it has been phrased in the rhetoric of numbers and quantitative reasoning. This is not simply because of performance metrics that have turned universities, academics, and students into accountable objects; rather, it is due to the very use of numbers to produce public validation for state policies in this area. After the end of the dictatorship, social-democratic governments made fulfilling the promise of social mobility a top priority by transforming higher education from a privilege for the few to an opportunity for the many. The promise of democratization translated into legislation favorable to private institutions and aggressive policies to subsidy demand in an open and competitive educational market. In a period of two decades or so (1990–2015), the results offered robust evidence of a successful path: the number of students enrolled in higher education increased four times— it went from less than 250,000 to more than 1 million; the social composition of educational institutions changed dramatically as three out of four students were “first generation”; and the proportion of graduates who could contribute advanced human capital to a growing economy almost doubled. This story of expansion and inclusion experienced a breakthrough in 2006 when the first socialist government after Salvador Allende paved the way to achieve the unthinkable: universal access to higher education. Inspired by a mixture of third-wave political pragmatism, orthodox economic rationality, and sophisticated juridical abstraction, the formula pledged to guarantee “the equal right to credit”9 to every student through a new system of state-guaranteed loans provided and managed by private banks. The numbers were undeniably promising, as the counting of politicians and policy experts showed that more than 500,000 poor and lower-middle-class students, who otherwise would not attend college, were now able to afford the high costs of tuition fees and climb the ladder of social mobility. When the student movement exploded in 2011, the fragility and contradictions of the official narrative became evident. A dissonance emerged between the expectations of “social mobility,” “self-realization,” “meritocracy,” and the expansion of “possibilities” that political elites and policymakers had nurtured for years, and the actual experience of increasing costs, burdening debts, poor-quality degrees, and class segregation associated with the expansion of a highly privatized educational system.

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This sense of dissonance was not a spontaneous reaction but the result of a critical gesture made by some of the leaders and organizations of the student movement: they began to inquire about what those official numbers really meant and what they hid. Somewhat timidly at first, they mobilized, in a language comprehensible for everyone, empirical evidence gathered in World Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports on the Chilean educational system. The data visualized the “miscount” of the crisis through the elaboration and public communication of a different “count”: the fast-growing mass of indebted students, the abusive interest rates of loans, the amount of public money transferred to private institutions, and the exorbitant profits of commercial banks.10 In the context of an educational market boosted by the state in an unprecedented manner, the public scrutiny of those numbers created a generalized sense of injustice that also helped shape the very understanding of what was at stake in the crisis: the existence of an institutional order that subjects education to the laws of competition and transforms students and their families into a source of economic value. The count of the miscount, to use Rancière’s wording,11 brought to the fore the commonality of the debt experience, as well as the rules that made such a bond possible in the first place. By building this connection, students were exposing the rules of a regime that credits and discredits them according to their capacity to pay, a regime that ties their biographies and expectations to the inventiveness and practical effects of a very powerful device: legally binding contracts. In the overall scheme of things, every student—even before entering campus— had first to become the signer of a sixteen-page loan agreement with a commercial bank (see figure 3.1).12 The written document’s logic and structure were no different from any other standard loan agreement, but it had two prominent features that made it especially interesting. On the one hand, the contract was built on a multifaceted set of economic norms, regulations, procedures, and categories accessible only to a handful of legal experts (e.g., Trade Code, Civil Code, Securities Market Act, Credit Operations Act, Organic Law of the Chilean Central Bank, General Banking Act, and Bills of Exchange Act). On the other, the contract outlined various areas of engagement (e.g., aid policy, academic performance, equity capitalization, loan management, money transferences, and document trail) that brought into relation many agents (the state, universities, banks, and students) according to strict rules of action. Despite the formal symmetry of all actors before the law, the contract placed the student as the weakest link of a complex credit value chain for up to twenty years.13

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First page of the student loan agreement.

Source: Comisión Administradora del Sistema de Créditos para Estudios Superiores, accessed October 18, 2019,

The loan contract was, therefore, a key to organizing higher education as a domain of market relations and students’ experiences as an entanglement of economic value and bonds of debt. The loan contract worked as a proxy for what Katherine Pistor calls “the legal code of capital,”14 namely, the juridical operation

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that makes it possible for an object like education to be traded in exchange for money. In this way, the loan contract defined the market, set the rules of “who will be subjected to market discipline” and on what grounds, and thus instituted moral obligations and social bonds that followed the market logic.15 All of this may have been invisible to the casual observer at the time. However, the 2011 movement showed that all students’ lives were, in one way or another, tied by the bond of debt. With the help of official numbers and the narration of personal experiences, as one of the student leaders said, “The message spread quickly. We did not have anything new to say to the families of students, we did not have to show them what was happening in their homes. . . . They knew perfectly well the suffering caused by debt. The point for us was for them to stop accepting it as something normal.”16 The questioning of the loan mechanism clarified the human costs and social problems generated by an educational system built on student debt. By putting the debt crisis under critical scrutiny, the student movement exposed the contradictions of Chilean higher education. On the one hand, instead of providing good education, universities were doing something else: producing exorbitant profits for their controllers, with an overpopulation of graduates in some areas; increasing dropout levels; underinvesting in academics; and, paradoxically enough, pushing public spending up to finance commercial banks. On the other hand, the system not only had transformed education into a consumer good accessible to anyone who could pay but also had unleashed a perverse logic that ended up destroying its social value: quite simply, it forced people to “choose between having debt, or having no education.”17 Students did not need expert knowledge of contract law to perceive the abusive clauses in their loan agreements and recognize that educational entrepreneurs were getting rich at the expense of their debts. In 2011, as the number of students going into default grew rapidly, especially among those who did not finish their degrees or who graduated from professions with low salary returns, the main question was whether education could ever be imagined without the principle of debt. The leaders of the student movement made the case before several parliamentary committees for the abolition of the state-guaranteed loan system, the exclusion of commercial banks from any form of student aid, and the transition to a new system of free public education that guaranteed education as a social right. They dared to contest the authority of the neoliberal nomos by exposing the contract of debt in front of those who were seen as politically responsible for promoting and sustaining a fraudulent system.18 The students’ critique confronted the system with the limits of its official truth.

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One of the most eloquent criticisms was made by a visual artist and hundreds of indebted students whose university (Universidad del Mar, a large private profit-seeking institution) was shut down after its accreditation was stripped away and the owners declared bankruptcy in 2012. As students were still forced to pay their debts, the artist Francisco Tapia decided to steal a large stack of promissory notes (worth $500 million) from the university.19 He then burned the financial documents, and the ashes were later exhibited in a VW Kombi van. The destruction of the files brought to the fore the issue of the rule of law in a different light: first, because the act was immediately treated by the police as a serious criminal offense against the constitutional protection of private property; second, because the incineration of documents contested the very legality of the debt obligations on the grounds of restorative justice; and third, because the destruction of the documents—although it did not technically rescind the debt—made calling in the debt almost impossible. If the experience of student debt is coded in law, as I have suggested, we may say that the disidentification from the force of this code was (and still is) central to the student’s critique of marketization. Thus the conflict over the boundaries of legality left exposed the fact that the crisis of the educational system was not an issue of mere policy change; rather, it was a struggle over how to separate education from the rule of market laws. To put it in the words of one of the student leaders, it was about breaking free from “the contract that was imposed on us to regulate social relations.”20

FREEDOM OF EDUCATION: THE CONSTITUTION IS THE CRISIS In many ways, the Chilean student movement was able to articulate the urgency for comprehensive reforms aimed at rolling back years of educational policies that had dismantled public education, denigrated its social value, and turned thousands of students into debtors. However, their critique brought to the surface of everyday life a new kind of “constitutional consciousness”:21 namely, awareness that the crisis of the educational system was deeply connected to the abstract concepts of the Chilean constitutional order. Accordingly, the students’ struggle for free public education should also be seen in relation to a second object of critique: the 1980 constitution.22 In the midst of the festive demonstrations and creative street performances of the many marches that took place during 2011 and 2012, lighting fire to

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oversized replicas of the constitutional text became a popular ritual in many cities in Chile. The symbolic act of profanation, accompanied by the chant “It will fall, it will fall! The education of Pinochet, now it will fall!” should not be disregarded as something merely negative or destructive. It actually crystallized the idea that if the constitution itself was the root of the crisis, a critical engagement with established constitutional meanings was socially and politically necessary. As a matter of fact, the student movement sparked a generative process of constitutional interpretation that was taking place not in a judicial chamber but on the streets and social media. It was fostered by the claims of those seemingly unqualified to rule (students and common people), not by lawyers and experts. And it drew from the existing archive of constitutional history not only to show the extent to which market laws were ingrained in and protected by the constitution, but also to compose a different “public hermeneutics” that would contest the very meaning of what is and who counts as “constitutional” in the existing order of society.23 If it is true what a former minister of Pinochet’s regime once unapologetically claimed, namely, that “the key of the Chilean liberal revolution was not the use of force but the force of a concept—individual freedom,”24 one could argue that the student movement was precisely calling attention to the political formation, social costs, and cultural inscription of a whole conception of society grounded in the primacy of economic freedom. The denaturalizing effect of this critique— albeit resisted by right-wing groups as an expression of old-fashioned “Marxist ideology” and downplayed by political elites as a “policy issue”—was effective not only in denouncing the injustices produced by neoliberal education but also in unraveling the frame of reference upon which a marketized conception of society was grounded, justified, and reproduced. The struggle over free public education brought to the fore and actually reinscribed the question of how society was conceived, not as an abstract problem but as a concrete and open-ended question. The students also challenged the hierarchies of authority that establish who may pose the question and how it can be answered. Having said this, it is not an accident that Chilean students found in the constitution (i.e., in the actual legal text) a perfect metaphor and a concrete terrain for their struggle. This is not because they had a legalistic understanding, although they were very active in debating the legal framework of the educational system, as I have already shown, but rather because they saw in the themes of the constitutional order a key to the political work of contesting and breaking free from the concepts that have shaped Chilean society as a market-centered society. Among those concepts, individual freedom and private property came to

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be seen as nodal points of contestation in the attempt to undo the complicity of the law in the making of marketized education. Article 19 of the 1980 Chilean constitution consecrates the principles of private property and economic freedom as the foundation of an educational system that is based on the idea of “freedom of education.” It does so by codifying three entwined subjective rights: “the right to open, organize and maintain educational institutions” (section 11), “the right to develop any economic activity” (section 21), and “the right to property over any kind of tangible and intangible asset” (section 24). Read as a unity, these legal precepts are the bedrock upon which education can be constitutionally protected and promoted as an economic activity like any other within the bounds of what Chilean constitutional doctrine denominates as a “public economic order.”25 Within this framework, universities and schools work under the premise that what they do is indistinguishable from any other economic activity, as well as under the provision that the educational goods they produce—as susceptible to being economized as they are—should be protected on the grounds of the individual freedom to develop any economic activity. In order to contest this premise, the students did not rely on the traditional tools of constitutionalism and legal scholarship—although they were very influenced by the writings of Fernando Atria, a law professor at Universidad de Chile26—but on their own lived experience with neoliberal education: the experience of living with unpayable debts, the experience of studying in institutions that function like retail companies and investment banks, and the experience of their collective demands for justice being ignored by the very rules that should protect them as holders of rights. In this regard, the constitutional interpretation they put forward is simple in its formulation but radical in that it disrupted the coded constitutional meanings: you cannot guarantee the right to education via the legal buttressing of freedom of enterprise and the will to choose only what the natural order of free markets allows to flourish. The fact that the existing institutional framework could not contain the students’ demands for free public education was a testament to the binding force of a constitutional order that uses economic rationales to order society, but also to the ideological attachment to neoliberal common sense among property-owning classes and governing elites. As a matter of fact, the president himself—who made his personal fortune by introducing credit cards in the late 1970s in Chile—disqualified the students’ demands by ironically saying, “We all want education, health and many more things to be free for everyone, but after all nothing is free in this life.”27 This response is symptomatic of the privatopia that

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the student revolt was challenging: a social world where price mechanisms and free enterprise serve as regulative ideas of the state and the rule of law. Like other progressive demands for reform that emerged from social movements in the last decade in Chile, students’ proposals to regulate the power of economic interests and promote the universal right to free public education often met with the same response: they were welcomed as morally desirable goals but then politically framed as unrealistic and disregarded as “unconstitutional.” In fact, the organized resistance of political and economic elites to the students’ egalitarian demands and critique of neoliberal education showed that the force and resilience of the constitutional order inherited from Pinochet lie in the very ways in which the distinction between the “constitutional” and the “unconstitutional” is defined, interpreted, and enacted through policies and regulations that govern the life of the population. This is nowhere clearer than in a ruling of the Constitutional Court on a law that prevented higher education institutions from being owned and controlled by for-profit organizations. Approved by parliament in 2017 after years of discussion prompted by the 2011 student revolt, the law was a great achievement for student organizations as it represented a step forward in the process of demarketization of the educational system. However, after mounting pressure from right-wing advocacy groups and private university officials, the court’s ruling declared the law “unconstitutional” because it violated the key principles of “economic freedom” and “freedom of education” sanctioned in the 1980 constitution. In defense of the ruling against objections to its evident disregard for the democratic process, the president of the court argued that even if the law had been democratically conceived, “it is not enough for a law to be democratic in order to be constitutional.”28 Inadvertently, the ruling summarizes in a nutshell and states in plain sight the neoliberal vision of a “democracy [that must be] protected from too much democracy,” of a democracy committed to the idea that “the majority of the political body must not have the [constitutional] power to ‘shape’ society.”29 In doing so, the ruling also reveals the heart of the constitutional crisis brought about by the student uprising: the questioning of the uses of law as a tool to block popular egalitarian demands, prevent interference with the existing property system, and safeguard the integrity of a marketized society. The identification of the perverse effects of this constitutional logic prompted the students to raise the stakes of their critique of the educational system: from a diagnosis that exposes the dramatic outcomes of policies designed to foster competition, individual choice, and private initiative as if education were a market, to a radical contestation of a form of doing democracy.

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UNDOING THE ECONOMIC RULE OF LAW: IMAGINING ANOTHER DEMOCRACY The student critique of the constitutional order inherited from Pinochet’s dictatorship should not be measured by its degree of juridical sophistication; its significance rather lies in the way in which it openly confronts the most durable contradiction of this political-legal order: namely, the establishment of a democracy built upon fear of democracy. As has been well documented,30 after Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, this fear persisted through institutional routines that disempowered the value of political dissent in favor of political stability, as well as in a system of norms that deflected collective action and reflection in favor of economic discipline. The refusal of this fear is what the 2011 student revolt staged with creative eloquence in the streets as well as in mass media and many formal institutional settings. As part of a generation that grew up in democracy, students took the opportunity of the educational crisis to insert themselves into a conversation monopolized by the vocabulary of economists and policy experts and the cynicism of an elite too comfortable with the certainties of neoliberal common sense. Their revolt was not simply a reaction to unsatisfied material grievances; it was based on moral convictions and social knowledge that would guide them in assessing what was wrong with neoliberal education. They also relied on these convictions to address the question of what should be done to resist its dominance and undo its injustices. Accordingly, students saw themselves as pursuing a double critical task: on the one hand, holding political groups accountable for not respecting the commitments and obligations implied in the existing framework of laws and, on the other, reminding the adult world at large that prefiguring another form of education and society apart from the rule of markets was not only politically possible but ethically necessary. Seen in this light, the struggle for free public education certainly articulated a hard-hitting moral protest against the corrosive effects of neoliberal policies and market forces. However, it also entailed a less noticed but equally crucial challenge to the political role of law in the economization of society. Insomuch as students were seen as the embodiment of those seemingly unqualified to rule (i.e., immature children),31 their very appearance in the political stage to discuss the legal framework of the educational system disturbed the background assumptions of democratic lawmaking. Such a disturbance, as the president of the Universidad de Chile Student Federation pointed out at the time, was not a capricious gesture but an act of responsibility because “the administration of power by the forever powerful forces us to

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interfere in their affairs, because their affairs are also our affairs and because we cannot let the privileged few be the ones who eternally define the rules and contours of our nation.”32 Of all the instances in which this political vision is invoked, I would like to focus briefly on a single episode that took place on August 16, 2011. On the occasion of a public hearing held by the Senate Education Committee to discuss a bipartisan motion to prevent higher education institutions from making profits out of public funds, the main leaders of the student movement were invited to present their views on the matter (see figure 3.2). By then, months of street protest and occupation of buildings had not produced any substantive response from government authorities other than brutal police repression, while public opinion had shifted toward a growing support of the demands and news outlets had transformed some student leaders (notably, Camila Vallejo and Giorgio Jackson) into global political celebrities of the left. It was no wonder that there were high expectations. The scene was set for the hearing to be broadcasted live. Despite the senators’ welcoming initial words and the rhetorical insistence on their willingness to listen in good faith, their bodies communicated discomfort, condescendence, and lukewarm emotion. To be sure, the popularity of the student movement was not easy to digest for members of a discredited political class. However, the main issue perhaps was the students’ impertinence in disrupting the established order of the ordinary legislative


Senate Education Committee hearing, August 16, 2011 (video stills).

Source: Biblioteca Congreso Nacional de Chile,

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process: their performance turned the space of the hearing into a lecture room. As one of them later recalled it, Although on TV everything seemed very well crafted, the truth is that our interventions were rather improvised. Not because we did not care, but simply because during those days we did not have much time for anything. We prepared our talking points on our way to Valparaíso [the coastal city where Congress is located]. . . . I carried in my backpack a bunch of academic articles and op-eds in favor and against our positions. We read them aloud. . . . As we arrived late, we only could distribute topics and emphases for each speaker. Even so, the force and logic of our arguments were far superior than the rudimentary defense of for-profit education led by Senator Ena von Baer and the noncommittal reform proposals made by Senator Ignacio Walker. We were not really aware of the impact of what we were doing.33

The nine students who spoke that evening presented lawmakers with a series of arguments and evidence intended to unpack the troubling logic and lasting consequences of an educational system whose regulatory principles—to which some of the lawmakers in the room had helped shape with their votes—have systematically worked for the benefit of private interests and against the very idea of education as a means for social equality. Official data, research and policy reports, personal experiences, international treaties, and existing national legislation were all part of the discursive artillery that students employed. However, worth noticing is that, during the hearing, they also occasionally drew on the notion of the “rule of law” (estado de derecho) to make their case against for-profit and marketized education: “no one here respects the law”; “this is a system that undermines people’s rights”; “we are not asking for anything that is not written in the law”; “it has cost us a great deal to place the idea that the alleged rule of law be enforced.”34

These references in no way imply that students wanted to make a principled defense of the liberal ideal of the supremacy of positive laws; rather, the students wanted to disclose the shaky grounds of a democracy in which the rule of law ends up subsumed under the economic rule of wealth. To question the constitutional structure that holds and reinforces this order would mean recognizing

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and disarticulating its main sources and effects. I do not claim here that students actually did so during the three-hour-long senate hearing, but one can appreciate more than a few hints. First, the students identified a “conceptual error”: the idea that education is, first and foremost, an economic good and a source of value that can be exchanged to the benefit of individual private agents. As the students argued during the hearing, the problem with the dominance of such a conception is that it produces a double distortion. On the one hand, it “distorts the goals of educational institutions” because they become more and more concerned with “increasing revenues” rather than creating public goods. On the other, it normalizes a way of addressing educational problems as if they were “market failures” that could be corrected through legal remedies and procedures. What follows from this view, according to the students’ account, is the failure to comprehend that, rather than more or fewer regulations, “the problems of our system are rooted in the very logic that governs them.”35 By rendering visible the ways in which the existing framework of rules and norms had effectively benefited the wealthy instead of the majority, students also drew critical attention to the moral insensitivity that political elites had demonstrated toward an educational system that, within a general respect for the rule of law, gambles with the expectations of social mobility of middle and lower classes. Therefore, they took the opportunity of the senate hearing to remind everyone in the room that lawmakers and policymakers had passively allowed educational entrepreneurs to enrich themselves at the expense of people’s rights for far too long. For students, it was important to break the silence, for “it is a brutality to be complicitous with a system that converts a right into business.” Perhaps what the students said that evening did not add new evidence to what senators already knew after years in the job of lawmaking. Still, the impassioned defense of free public education offered not only a refined reflection on the manifold causes of the educational crisis but also an ethical challenge to the neoliberal common sense and market forces that had dominated too many corners of Chilean society. Ultimately, what students poignantly disclosed during the senate hearing is that the marketization of education, instead of being a process of deregulation, entailed a particular appeal to the law and lawmaking as a means to safeguard market freedoms rather than claims of social justice. To the senators in the room, this criticism was a caricature of the institutional complexities and constraints of lawmaking in a hyper-presidential system in

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which parliament has limited ability to amend or enact new legislation. Be that as it may, if the practices that form the law operate, in part, as a series of boundaries and distinctions that codify and enforce the difference between what is legal and what is illegal in society, then the more fundamental point the student critique actually raised was the historical contingency and lack of justification of a legal order whose boundaries continued to be drawn in accordance with the principles of a market economy. By complicating the assumed understanding of the rule of law in this way, students were bringing to the fore more than the violence of neoliberal legalism as a social practice of rule. To the extent that the law is never just an instrument of the powerful, the student revolt against neoliberal education also helped reinvigorate the political idea that, especially in times of crisis, law and lawmaking— instead of being used to protect the status quo—should empower a different, more egalitarian future.

CLOSING REMARKS When Chilean students hit the streets in the early months of 2011 to denounce the pathological levels of student debt and to rise up against the corrosive power of for-profit education, the role of legal forms began to appear in every issue they addressed: in the abusive contract loans they signed with private banks, in the lack of regulation of the educational market, and in the intricate web of constitutional norms and interpretations that protect a conception of education that reproduces class, gender, and cultural inequalities. By reading their struggle through the lenses of law, students used legal forms and principles to make sense of their experiences with neoliberal education, to demand an explanation from power structures deemed responsible for a system that promotes freedom but ultimately undermines people’s rights, and to envision modes of transformative action aimed at undoing the rule of market laws. In doing so, they transformed established legal meanings into concrete objects of social critique and at the same time mobilized the symbolic frame of law to encourage the imagination of a post-neoliberal social order. One may debate whether this form of criticism actually brought about real social change and argue over the criteria for making such an assessment. However, such a discussion is likely to lead to the trivial conclusion that the students actually failed because the goals of the movement have not been fully accomplished:

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there is no free public education for all, the overall structure of a market society is still very much in place, and radical transformations have been until recently politically and legally blocked. To be sure, whenever critical social movements engage with and draw upon the law, there is the risk that their demands will be engulfed and tamed by legal experts, state institutions, and power elites with privileged access to the juridical field.36 The fact that some of the main leaders of the student movement were later elected to Congress and became lawmakers themselves may prove the point. However, a significant effect of the critique of law that arose out of the Chilean student revolt—as I have reconstructed it in this paper—is that it stimulated reflection among ordinary citizens and a collective reevaluation of the meaning of law in the political organization of society. Even if this critical practice may have fallen short of breaking through “the walls of the constitution,” it did actually make more visible the fictio iuris of the neoliberal order (i.e., the magical conversion of economic principles into quasi-permanent legal principles) and make less acceptable its everyday enforcements and justifications. The critical memory of the human costs and social consequences of such a neoliberal fiction, but also the recollection of previous struggles against it, resurfaced in Chile in a more vehement and radical fashion on October 2019 when a popular revolt unexpectedly erupted across the country. The collective force of millions of citizens from all walks of life opened unprecedented pathways for political and constitutional transformation. The revolt sparked a generative process of popular engagement with the authority of the constitutional text inherited from the dictatorship. The 1980 Constitution experienced a conversion from being a document of higher law and expert knowledge to a very profane object that began to circulate through a multiplicity of everyday settings and aesthetic forms. There is no better indication for this than the simple yet rebellious exercise that many citizens began to carry out on their own: to read the Constitution. In the subway, the bus stop, the square, the classroom, self-organized assemblies, and social networks. People reading cheap copies of the Constitution, carrying the text marked with post-its, annotated with questions, underlined with important concepts, marked as a draft in progress (figure 3.3). If there is some truth in the phrase “neoliberalism was born and will die in Chile,” which became a signature of the dense landscape of graffiti, murals, stencils, and screen prints that clothed Chilean cities with a new skin, it is because concepts and ideas do not simply perish due to the erasure of old terms or the forging of new meanings. Change requires the demanding political

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Image from screen print, Santiago de Chile, January 2020.

Source: Ricardo Valenzuela.

work of rearranging the institutions and relations in which concepts are able to thrive and move. In times of crisis, mythologies may reappear and order can be reestablished with new force, but the challenge of social critique lies in reading the scars left by those concepts and ideas on the lives and deaths of too many people and taking those scars as guideposts for exploring alternative, less unequal social futures. NOTES Research for this paper was funded by Fondecyt Grant No. 1181585, Chilean National Agency for Research and Development (ANID). 1. Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (New York: Zone, 2015), 151–73.

Undoing the Rule of Market Laws 73  2. Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France 1978–1979, ed. Michel Senellart (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2008), 171. See also Miguel Vatter, “Neoliberalism and Republicanism: Economic Rule of Law and Law as Concrete Order (Nomos),” in The SAGE Handbook of Neoliberalism, ed. Damiel Cahill et al., 370–83 (London: Sage, 2018). 3. María Olivia Monckeberg, Con Fines de Lucro. La Escandalosa Historia de las Universidades Privadas en Chile (Santiago: Debate, 2013), chap. 1. 4. Qué Pasa, “Universidades: Un Mercado Bullente” Santiago, June 18, 2010, http://www.quepasa .cl/articulo/negocios/2010/06/16-3586-9-universidades-un-mercado-bullente.shtml/. 5. Francisco Figueroa, Llegamos Para Quedarnos: Crónicas de la Revuelta Estudiantil (Santiago: LOM, 2012), 49–53; see also Giorgio Jackson, El País Que Soñamos (Santiago: Debate, 2013); and Camila Vallejo, Podemos Cambiar el Mundo (México, DF: Ocean Sur, 2012). All these books, authored by the main leaders of the 2011 student movement, offer informative first-person accounts of the struggle for free public education. 6. The issue of law is almost absent in the bulk of literature that emerged since 2011, which has mostly framed the analysis within the contours of social movement studies (resources of mobilization), media studies (discourses and practices), and educational policy (institutional reforms). For a general overview, see Sofía Donoso and Nicolás Somma, “ ‘You Taught Us to Give an Opinion, Now Learn How to Listen’: The Manifold Political Consequences of Chile’s Student Movement,” in Protest and Democracy, ed. M. Arce and R. Rice, 145–72 (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2019). 7. Jackson, El País Que Soñamos, 13738; emphasis added. 8. Martin Loughlin, “Nomos,” in Law, Liberty and State: Oakeshott, Hayek and Schmitt on the Rule of Law, ed. D. Dyzenhaus and T. Poole (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 72; Rodrigo Cordero, “It Happens In-Between: On the Spatial Birth of Politics in Arendt’s On Revolution,” European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology 1, no. 3 (2014): 258. 9. José J. Brunner, “Crédito estudiantil: La Torre de Babel” La Tercera, Santiago, January 15, 2006,; emphasis added. 10. After implementation of the new loan system known as CAE (Crédito con Aval del Estado), the majority of private universities adjusted their fees and increased student enrollment dramatically. Their strategy was to capture as many loans as they could, for which poor and lower-middle-class students became a precious and low-risk business asset. To take an example, between 2006 and 2018, the American holding Laureate International, which owns three universities and one professional institute, increased student enrollment by 212.9 percent and, as a consequence, received more than $1.3 billion in student loans. Over the same period, the Chilean state transferred more than $4 billion to commercial banks, as the loan scheme involved management fees and the state’s obligation to purchase a portion of the debtor portfolio. Alexander Páez, Marco Kremermann, and Banjamín Sáez, Endeudar para gobernar y mercantializar: El caso del CAE, Documento de Trabajo Fundación Sol, June 2019, 17, 11. Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, trans. Julie Rose (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 27–30. 12. Before reaching this point, there was a whole market-like dynamic. The state called once a year for applications to the loan program and selected students according to socioeconomic criteria. Then it opened a competitive bidding process for banks to make package offers to

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14. 15. 16. 17.


19. 20. 21. 22.


24. 25.

thousands of poor and lower-middle-class students to whom they would give loans. The best bids were selected based on the price banks would charge the state for selling back the riskier loans by following a logic very similar to collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Cámara de Diputados, Informe Comisión Investigadora de los Actos de Gobierno Vinculados a la Implementación de la Ley Nº 20.027, &prmTIPO=INFORMECOMISION. Katherine Pistor, The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019), 22. David Singh Grewal and Jedediah Purdy, “Introduction: Law and Neoliberalism,” Law and Contemporary Problems 77, no. 4 (2015): 1–23, 7–8. Jackson, El País Que Soñamos, 80. Patrick Kingsley, “Chilean Rebel Camila Vallejo: The Problem Is Bigger—It’s Structural” [interview], The Guardian, November 20, 2012, /20/chile-student-rebel-camila-vallejo. During 2011, representatives of the main student federations attended more than ten hearings in the Chilean Chamber of Representatives and the Chilean Senate. They voiced ideas that would openly contradict the established consensus on educational policies and move the discussion beyond neoliberal common sense. Figueroa, Llegamos Para Quedarnos, 128–31, 144–45. Jonathan Franklin, “Chile Students’ Debts Go Up in Smoke,” The Guardian, May 23, 2014, Vallejo, Podemos Cambiar el Mundo, 117. Rohit De, A People’s Constitution: The Everyday Life of Law in the Indian Republic (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018), 10. This constitution has a special status in recent Latin American political history, not only because it was created and legitimized in a dictatorship under conditions of violence and repression but also because it successfully set the model for a radically new market-centered society and was the breeding ground for the unfolding and consolidation of the neoliberal experiment. Drafted by a commission of legal scholars appointed by the military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet, this constitution was discussed over a period of five years (1973–1978), approved in a sham plebiscite in 1980, and then ratified, with some amendments, months before the dictatorship ended in 1989. Since the return to democracy, it has been an object of both worship and disdain, somehow constituting the lens through which democratic life is thought about, debated, practiced, and projected to this very day in Chile. See Rodrigo Cordero, “Giving Society a Form: Constituent Moments and the Force of Concepts,” Constellations 26, no. 2 (2019): 194–207. Domingo Lovera, “The Right to Social Protest: Negotiating Constitutional Meanings” (PhD thesis, York University, Toronto, 2016), 3–12. See also Jason Frank, Constituent Moments: Enacting the People in Postrevolutionary America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 243. José Piñera, “Chile: El poder de una idea” in El Desafío Neoliberal: El Fin del Tercermundismo en América Latina, ed. B. Levine (Santa Fe de Bogotá: Norma, 1992), 80. Cordero, “Giving Society a Form,” 10–11.

Undoing the Rule of Market Laws 75  26. Atria’s op-eds and books were often read by students “en toma” and by the leaders of the movement, who found in his writings a global view of the crisis of the educational system and its deep connections with the institutional logic of Chilean democracy. See Fernando Atria, La mala educación: Ideas que inspiran al movimiento estudiantil en Chile (Santiago: Catalonia, 2012). 27. “Presidente Piñera dice que ‘nada es gratis en esta vida,’ ” La Tercera, August 11, 2011, https:// -educacion-no-puede-ser-gratis-para-todos/. 28. Tribunal Constitucional de Chile, Sentencia Rol 4317–18, 107, April 26, 2018, http://www 29. Friedrich A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty: A New Statement of the Liberal Principles of Justice and Political Economy (London: Routledge, 2012), 139; see also Nancy MacLenn, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (New York: Viking, 2017), 159. 30. Renato Cristi and Pablo Ruiz-Tagle, El constitucionalismo del miedo: Propiedad, bien común y poder constituyente (Santiago: LOM, 2014). 31. A prominent right-wing senator derogatorily called the students, and those who supported their demands, “a bunch of useless subversives.” “No nos va a doblar la mano una manga de inútiles subversivos,” La Tercera, August 6, 2011, -larrain-no-nos-va-a-doblar-la-mano-una-manga-de-inutiles-subversivos/. 32. Vallejo, Podemos Cambiar el Mundo, 57. 33. Figueroa, Llegamos Para Quedarnos, 145. 34. Biblioteca Congreso Nacional de Chile, “Senate Education Committee Hearing on Bill 7856– 04: It Prohibits That For-Profit Educational Institutions Receive State Funds,” August 16, 2011, 35. Biblioteca Congreso Nacional de Chile, “Senate Education Committee Hearing on Bill 7856–04.” 36. Scott L. Cummings, “The Social Movement Turn in Law,” Law and Social Inquiry 43, no. 2 (2018): 360–416.

4 “Layoffs Are Murder, but They Are Also Everyday Life” A Critique of Labor and Living in the Era of Ghost Capital HA E Y EO N C HO O

INTRODUCTION: THE H-20000 PROJECT On a hot summer day in 2013, twenty men gathered in a car repair shop on the outskirts of Seoul, South Korea. They were laid-off workers from Ssangyong Motors. Since 2009 they had fiercely challenged the company over a massive layoff of 2,319 factory workers, almost half of Ssangyong’s workforce. Their activism began with a seventy-seven-day strike, during which they occupied the Ssangyong factory. The strike ended with a violent police raid and the imprisonment of many union members. However, this strike was only the beginning. For the next eleven years, many laid-off workers devoted themselves to the struggle to regain their jobs by staging hunger strikes, occupying the central city square, and engaging in legal action and solidarity campaigns. When the workers gathered on that summer day, the gathering served a purpose greater than the simple demand to be rehired. They named the event the H(eart)-20000 Project. With the support of 20,000 people who donated money and gave their “hearts,” the workers disassembled a Ssangyong SUV, put all 20,000 auto parts back together, and presented the finished car to their supporters, who watched the process on video. By their actions and words, they were reclaiming joy, knowledge, and expertise as workers, challenging the notion that workers are disposable and replaceable at the whim of capital. In fact, they were reclaiming the value of work outside the constraints of wage labor, to which they had long aspired to return. Some participants openly expressed their doubts about whether they wanted to go back to the factory as it was, “a factory without souls” in the words of Go Dong-Min, where workers were treated “like machines” (Jông 2014, 232). For those who had fought for years

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to regain their jobs, what did it mean that they did not want to return to things exactly as they were? What kind of critique did they offer, proposing to reimagine labor and ways of living? In this chapter, I follow the eleven-year history of the Ssangyong Motors workers’ struggle to regain their jobs, from 2009 to 2020, in order to shed light on the critique the workers and their allies developed in the process. As a landmark case of resistance against layoffs in South Korea, the example of Ssangyong Motors reflects the global crisis of labor in the face of the heightened mobility of capital. As the ownership of the company changed hands, from a South Korean corporation to a Chinese state capital venture, then again to an Indian conglomerate, the laid-off workers faced a particular challenge in dealing with the shifting, de-territorialized nature of capital, which they referred to as a “ghost.” Throughout the transfer of hands in management, South Korean state power in the form of the police and legal institutions joined in the repression of organized labor. Under such circumstances, how did the main actors in the Ssangyong Motors struggle move beyond their labor union and achieve the vibrant mobilization of various sectors of civil society and the public in South Korea? How did the most iconic slogan used in the Ssangyong Motors strike, “layoffs are murder,” a slogan highlighting the violence of the layoffs and a diagnosis that they represented an acute moment of crisis, evolve into the recognition that “layoffs are murder, but they are also everyday life”? In answering these questions, I reflect on the usefulness of crisis as a heuristic— in particular, on how it illustrates the paradox that a crisis is an extraordinary moment of rupture that is also embedded in the ordinary and normal order. While calling something a crisis is a political act that questions conditions and demands immediate actions for repair, it runs a risk of becoming a romantic call to return to the normal order, even when the state of normalcy gave rise to the  problem in the first place. What I see in the Ssangyong Motors struggle is the potential to break out of this impasse, one encapsulated in the statement of the Ssangyong workers, “layoffs are murder, but they are also everyday life.” When the laid-off workers declared that “layoffs are murder,” they directly challenged the dominant view of the layoffs as a normal managerial decision, a common tool to overcome a business crisis. Here, the workers claimed authority to name the crisis as they saw it—layoffs as violent actions that create an acute crisis for workers. Yet, at the same time, by acknowledging that layoffs are also part of “everyday life,” the workers refused to see the Ssangyong layoffs as an extraordinary and isolated event—a rupture from normalcy—that a simple return to the factory would solve. How did the Ssangyong workers, in the course

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of their struggle, come to acknowledge the injustice of the layoffs as a crisis both of labor and living, but also begin to develop a critique that saw such crises as inherent in the capitalist order they live in? This chapter delves into how the Ssangyong workers and their allies rejected a nostalgic call for rehiring, refusing to accept that a simple return to work could restore normalcy for them. They instead offered a radical critique that makes a different way of life possible, based on a new politics and ethics beyond the capitalist order.

SSANGYONG MOTORS AND THE CRISIS OF WORK: A LANDMARK CASE OF LAYOFFS AND RESISTANCE What kinds of crises does the case of Ssangyong Motors reveal? On one hand, the Ssangyong layoffs and the resistance to them reveal a crisis of work that symbolizes the changing conditions of labor under contemporary capitalism. The massive layoffs of mostly skilled workers with decent pay and benefits, as well as the systems of seniority and protection granted by union membership, reflect the increasing precarity of work. The fact that this took place in the heavy manufacturing sector indicated that nowhere is safe, given that this was one of a few remaining domains of “working men,” unlike other feminized light industries such as garment manufacture or service work sectors (Choo 2016). The rise of precarious work also signals another crisis. Yoonkyung Lee and other labor scholars have identified a global phenomenon that has intensified in South Korea in the years since the Asian financial crisis of 1997—the mobility of capital vis-à-vis the immobility of labor (Lee 2015). Ssangyong Motors is a case in point. Its ownership changed from Ssangyong to Daewoo Corporation in 1998, only for the company to be placed in state guardianship following the Asian financial crisis. In 2004, it was sold to Shanghai Motors, a Chinese state-owned company, but it declared bankruptcy and was again placed in state guardianship in 2009, prompting massive layoffs. A company cannot easily justify layoffs under South Korean labor laws, as it needs to prove there are grave management-related problems and that layoffs are the last resort to keep the company afloat. The Ssangyong workers and their trade union argued in court that Shanghai Motors, employing the services of prestigious South Korean accounting and consulting firms, used sophisticated accounting techniques to artificially depreciate the company’s assets. This made the company’s financial state look worse than it was, thus providing the grounds for layoffs. The battle regarding the legality of the layoffs went through the court

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system, with the Seoul High Court ruling in favor of the workers and their union in 2014, only for its ruling to be reversed by the Supreme Court nine months later. By then, ownership of Ssangyong Motors had already passed, in 2010, to the India-based Mahindra Group. Facing the mobility of capital and the professional strategies and services it employs—be it accounting, consulting, or law firms—the repertoire of action that Ssangyong workers deployed for resistance treaded familiar terrain in the beginning. But the problem in the case of Ssangyong Motors was that the workers could not rely on common tactics of the past. These tactics included confronting chaebôl owners directly in the form of “public dramas” (Chun 2005), such as camping out at the house of a CEO in an affluent neighborhood in Seoul, thereby appealing to individual conscience as well as that of the general public. As novelist Gong Ji-young has written about the Ssangyong strike, it seemed as if “the workers were fighting a ghost” (Gong 2012). Although the workers did go on to stage protests in India in 2015 and 2018, with support from Indian trade unions, their position was considerably weaker dealing with a firm outside their national territory. Fighting against the layoffs in 2009, implemented by Shanghai Motors, the workers attempted to mobilize nationalist sentiment. They argued that a Chinese company was stealing technology developed with Korean taxpayers’ money and had orchestrated a fake bankruptcy when the technology transfer was complete. However, this argument did not attract as much support from the South Korean public as the workers had hoped, perhaps indicating a growing acceptance of the de-territorial nature of capital decoupled from the nation. When large-scale layoffs were announced, 1,000 Ssangyong workers occupied the factory to begin their seventy-seven-day strike, with the slogan “layoffs are murder.” The slogan was a challenge to the idea that the layoffs were a legitimate and natural solution to the management crisis, emphasizing their profound and violent impact. Lee Chang-Geun, a Ssangyong worker and union leader, recalled the devastating impact of the layoff notice when it was delivered to the workers. It created a division between “the living and the dead,” the workers who survived the layoffs and those who did not: The power of that one piece of paper was extraordinary. It divided the union members into the living and the dead. Laughter and tears, sighs of relief and sighs of despair crossed paths. The notorious layoff notice infiltrated everyday living spaces. Even in the same apartment building, the divide between the

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living and the dead became clear. People didn’t visit each other’s homes anymore, and they formed new cliques. (Lee 2015, 26)

Inside the occupied factory, this fault line temporarily broke down during the strike. Out of the 1,000 Ssangyong workers who participated, 800 of them received layoff notices, whereas 200 did not. All 200 of these workers continued to participate out of solidarity. As the union leader Han Sang-Gyun said, “We wanted to be human beings, and we fought as human beings” (Jông 2014, 243). Although they started off strong, the occupation and the strike were vigorously attacked, not only by the company but also by the general public, influenced by media representations of the strikers as violent and selfish. Furthermore, the sense of betrayal among the strikers was especially acute when the company mobilized the remaining employed workers (“the living”), who were their neighbors and longtime coworkers, to fight the strikers on the front line. Having been told by management that a prolonged strike would lead to the bankruptcy of the company and cause everyone to lose their jobs, these workers confronted the strikers directly to end the occupation by force. They were joined by hired private security officers, which left deep scars and division among the workers (Jông 2014, 49–50). Workers’ occupation of the factory was judged to be illegal and was violently suppressed by a series of SWAT team raids, which led to severe PTSD and depression among many of the workers and their families after the occupation ended.1 The end of the strike resulted in an agreement that reduced the number of layoffs and instead put some workers on unpaid leave (with the promise that they would be rehired when the company recovered), but as time went by, this promise began to look as elusive as ever. With the strike broken, a more insidious assault continued in the form of lawsuits and prosecutions targeting the strikers. In addition to criminal charges against the union leaders and strike participants (which led to prison sentences for ninety-eight Ssangyong workers), many of the union leaders and members were bombarded with multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits, as “compensation” for the damage they caused through their occupation of the factory, following a new neoliberal repertoire of labor union repression in South Korea (Lee 2019). Through these trials, the Ssangyong workers’ union was mostly destroyed and replaced by a new management-friendly company union. The everyday difficulties of the laid-off Ssangyong workers were exacerbated by the locally embedded nature of Ssangyong Motors in the city of Pyôngtaek on the outskirts of Seoul. Due to the sheer number of workers at the Ssangyong

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factory, they had formed a solid block of stable middle-class households with concentrated residences in several neighborhoods. After the strike, the isolation and stigmatization of those who had been laid off continued in their neighborhoods and their children’s schools. As Lee Chang-Geun recalled: The 2009 struggle that we risked our whole lives for was not an isolating experience, but rather one in which we stood proudly as human beings. [During the strike] isolation in a physical sense did not exist. But after the layoffs, the lives of those who were fired became epitomes of isolation and disconnection. When they went for job interviews, the stigma of being workers from Ssangyong Motors became a problem. In their local communities, the stigma of a militant union impoverished their lives, which ultimately ruined them. Such isolation from society, which did not embrace their pain, pushed the workers to commit themselves to the goal of returning to the factory. When the dream of regaining their jobs disappeared, their world crumbled. For the past three years, we have painfully learned that the disconnection of relationships cannot be recovered by individual efforts, as death after death haunts us. (Lee 2015, 158)

As rumors of a blacklist of Ssangyong workers circulated, their chances of finding new employment were blocked, given the stigma of having belonged to a militant union that had orchestrated a violent strike. They had to resort to day labor or other forms of precarious work, which severely affected their livelihoods and those of their families. Then began a stream of suicides and untimely deaths among the laid-off workers and their family members. “Like unknown contagious diseases, like a silent movement of fog,” Lee Chang-Geun said, “the deaths have arrived so close to us,” as if to echo the tragic slogan of the strike, “layoffs are murder.” Although he could not remember the exact origin of the slogan, he expressed regret, asking himself, “People say words become seeds. Why did we shout out that slogan?” (Lee 2015, 38). Yet the regrets did not stop the deaths. From 2009 to 2018, 30 people—26 workers and 4 spouses—lost their lives in connection to distress resulting from the layoffs, including 16 suicides and 14 other deaths due to cancer, heart attacks, and strokes (Hwang 2017; Kwôn 2015; Lee 2018). However, the deaths paradoxically brought public attention to the Ssangyong Motors workers and created broader social support for victims of state violence and social death, in a way that the layoffs and subsequent labor struggle alone had not been able to do.

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MOBILIZATION BEYOND SSANGYONG MOTORS AND THE CRISIS OF LIVING The moment that galvanized broader support from civil society in South Korea for the cause of the Ssangyong Motors workers was the death of forty-four-yearold Im Mu-Chang in February 2011. Im had been on unpaid leave since 2009 and was waiting to return to the factory. This case was particularly heartbreaking because less than a year before, in April 2010, his wife had committed suicide, and now his death left his two children without parents. Im was working as a day laborer at the time of his death, and his bank account only contained 40,000 won (approximately $36). As the thirteenth death since the Ssangyong layoffs, Im’s story spread in the news media and moved many South Koreans, including religious leaders and artists, into action. The issue was no longer limited to Ssangyong Motors or labor troubles, but now illuminated a crisis of living. Among the people who responded to the news of Im’s death was Gong Ji-young, a best-selling author and novelist. She describes the Ssangyong struggle as a cry for help—like a 911 call from a domestic violence victim, or even the iconic protest suicide of Jôn Taeil that gave momentum to the pro-democracy student movement throughout the 1970s and 1980s (Gong 2012, 14). To her it was a wake-up call that revealed the case of Ssangyong Motors as an acute crisis under contemporary capitalism. Gong recounts her own transformation from someone who did not know the basic facts of the Ssangyong layoffs—disclosing her surprise when she learned that Ssangyong was no longer a South Korean corporation, belonging instead to the India-based Mahindra Group—to devoting herself to writing Musical Chairs, a nonfiction book about the layoffs. Since its publication in 2012, Gong has donated royalties for over 110,000 copies of the book, worth 380 million won, to Ssangyong activists (Kim 2014). She explicitly takes the role of a nonexpert in telling the story of the Ssangyong Motors struggle, explaining a complicated narrative of capital, the state, and the law to lay audiences. Gong likens what happened at Ssangyong to a game of musical chairs, a brutal game that betrays human connections: It is that game of musical chairs—when it comes down to the moment of the last chair, we have to push our friend off of it and sit down ourselves in order not to lose, even if we don’t want to. The managers of Ssangyong Motors seemed to be making this large group of workers play such a game, with only half the number of chairs. A crazy game that has no standards, no rationale, no fun, and one that causes death for those who lose a chair. (Gong 2012, 92)

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In her story, the layoffs at Ssangyong Motors are no longer an isolated crisis that only affected the workers there, but rather the condition under neoliberal capitalism, the violence of which affects all workers: “Neoliberalism means that when wages go up here, they move to a cheaper place. They don’t care what happens to the people who used to work here. They call this flexibilization. That beautiful name of ‘flexibilization’ is in fact brutal and violent. It may just be another name for being fired, for poverty, for murder, and for degrading human value. In search of cheap wages, capital roams around the world.” (Gong 2012, 163)

In addition, Gong emphasizes the difficulty of fighting against such flexible, neoliberal forms of capital, which she characterizes as “ghosts”: Here lies the difficulty of the laid-off workers of Ssangyong Motors. For example, in the case of Hanjin Heavy Industry, the symbolic target of confrontation becomes its president, Cho Nam-Ho. It is the same with Hyundai Motor’s president Jông Mong-Gu, or Samsung’s president Lee Gôn-Hee. But Ssangyong Motors doesn’t have a clear target. It’s as if they are fighting ghosts. Those who fight ghosts lose their minds. If they go to Pyôngtaek, the Mahindra Group will say this: It wasn’t us who fired you, and it wasn’t our promise to give your jobs back. Shanghai Motors would remain silent. The managers will say, and in fact are saying, that they just followed orders. They also may ask why they are the ones being blamed when it is also the responsibility of the Roh Moo-Hyun government. Although they may hate the managers to death, the union members know that they are not the real targets of their hatred. But this doesn’t lessen their pain at all. They may hate “the living,” but “the living” are not the ones who caused their pain. They suffer from pain, but who caused it remains elusive. (Gong 2012, 166)

For Gong, the case of Ssangyong Motors is important because “the capital that would hire us, pay us, and fire us would now generally resemble Ssangyong Motors” (Gong 2012, 167), whose ownership and accountability are unclear and constantly shifting like ghosts, with no one to take responsibility. The second person who responded to the deaths surrounding the Ssangyong Motors layoffs as a crisis of living is Jông Hye-Sin, a psychotherapist. Jông has

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been concerned with issues of social and political trauma as a “doctor on the street.” After learning about the continuing deaths among Ssangyong Motors workers and their families, she went to Pyôngtaek to set up a community psychotherapy center called Warak in November 2011. The seed money to establish the center came from 20 million won donated by the Truth Foundation, an organization of torture victims under the South Korean military dictatorships who had been charged with being North Korean spies but were later cleared and given compensation by the state. Here, the issue of Ssangyong Motors finds a connection with the victims of state violence outside of labor. Further, more than 5,600 people have donated a total of 200 million won, which has made the Warak Center possible (Choi 2010). Diagnosing the crisis as a collective case of PTSD resulting from the layoffs and police violence, Jông and the Warak Center have offered various kinds of individual and group therapy for the workers, their families, and their children. As the Ssangyong workers garnered broader support from civil society, their  struggles also expanded spatially. In April 5, 2012, a public memorial for the deceased workers and their families [ఝዽබ ึጎ໴] was set up in front of the Daehan Gate of Dôksu Palace, across from Seoul City Hall. This came after the suicide of another laid-off worker named Lee Yun-Hyông, the twenty-second death in relation to the Ssangyong layoffs. Instead of setting up the protest memorial in front of the Ssangyong factory in Pyôngtaek, the workers chose a location in the center of Seoul in order to galvanize broader support and overcome their isolation. This was deemed to be an illegal occupation, and the memorial was subject to frequent police crackdowns. Ultimately it was demolished by the police in the early morning of June 10, 2013 (Han 2013). Even so, daily Catholic masses for the laid-off Ssangyong workers, which had started on April 4, continued despite the demolition of this site for 225 days until November 18 (Han 2013). The Daehanmun public memorial began as a place to mourn the dead, but it became a space to reimagine the living, operating as a site of solidarity building in South Korea. As Lee Chang-Geun states: “The reason that they attack the Daehanmun memorial is that this site is like a belly button giving rise to solidarity and connections. They are afraid of more and more people cutting the umbilical cord to be reborn and grow” (Lee 2015, 292), The memorial has since become a site for various struggles in South Korea, such as the Yongsan evictees, Jeju anti– naval base protesters, and the Miryang anti-electricity protesters, all of whom have been forcibly removed by police (Kim 2018). In this way, as Lee recalled, the memorial began to symbolize a societal response to “the people who faced the

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most violent repression,” where their resistance resonates with other struggles, “like white seeds of dandelions spread around” (Lee 2015, 42). In the process of occupying the city center and meeting countless supporters who regularly brought them homemade food, donations, or just their companionship, the Ssangyong workers not only gained strength but also began to see their struggle in relation to others in solidarity. Many of the workers recounted their lives prior to the layoffs, when they had stable factory jobs and worried about saving enough money to move to a bigger apartment. They did not know or care about other labor or social struggles. As Lee Gap-Ho, who had been camping out at the public memorial for months, recalled: When I was working in the [Ssangyong] factory, I did not know that there was a laid-off workers’ struggle at Daelim Motors, right next to us, and there was someone who had committed suicide. This factory was very close to us. There was also Bae Dal-Ho, who committed suicide in protest at Doosan Heavy Industry, and I had no idea. At that time, I only cared about my life, my family’s life. But now that I’ve been laid off, I am so grateful for the people who care about me, have concern for me, even though it has nothing to do with them. I think this is my debt. I want to pay this debt forward and get my everyday life back by doing so. (Jông 2014, 230–231)

In the process of building solidarity with other workers and social groups, the Ssangyong Motors struggle has evolved from perceiving the layoffs at Ssangyong as a momentary crisis that returning to the factory would solve, to a more radical understanding of the layoffs as part of broader social conditions that are clearly both “everyday” and deadly. Here, the tragedy at Ssangyong emerges simultaneously as a moment of crisis, an acute problem that hinges upon its exceptionality, as well as one of many routine practices interwoven into the fabric of the capitalist system and its workplaces, like Daelim and Doosan. Yang Hyông-Geun, who had worked at Ssangyong Motors since 1989 until he was let go in 2009, echoes the notion that the Ssangyong Motors layoffs were not a unique, isolated event, but one that raises a critical question about the relationship between labor and management, which he refers to as a matter of “truth”: The reason we [Ssangyong workers] are at the heart of the layoff problem is not because we were laid off in large numbers, but because the issues of truth and death are at stake here.  .  .  . Getting to the truth guarantees our

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return [to the factory]. And this is not just for us. The reason that getting to the truth is important is because it corrects what is wrong. What is a dire management-related reason? How did the management problem occur? How should we address management-related problems? What should we do in order not to pass on the responsibility to each other, especially to the workers, but not the managers? If we do this, we can stop the sacrifice of so many people, like those naïve ones who think they should just work hard but who end up being helplessly sacrificed. (emphasis in the original) (Jông 2014, 255–256)

According to Yang, the Ssangyong Motors struggle is therefore about challenging the idea that the layoffs—a sacrifice for “the workers, but not the managers”—are an acceptable solution to a management problem. Furthermore, Yang brings attention to the lack of a broader social safety net beyond the factory walls, which causes a crisis of living. He remarks about the Ssangyong workers, “They die because society doesn’t accept them, and they feel wronged. Even if they were laid off because of dire management-related reasons, they should be able to survive, not die. Then we should have an answer to the question, ‘How were they pushed to the point that they can’t live anymore?’ ” (Jông 2014, 256). Asking and answering this question means to critically examine the social condition that people’s basic livelihood depends on their employment. The necessity of building alternate models of citizenship, belonging, and livable lives is ever more important, with the rise of precarious work and the subsequent dismantling of the model of the citizen-worker in contemporary capitalism. Based on these insights from the Ssangyong struggle, Lee Chang-Geun reflects on and revises the slogan used during the strike, “layoffs are murder”: Is the slogan that we should return to the factory still valid? Isn’t there something missing in this slogan? If we define the return narrowly—as returning to the company with financial capacity, returning to the inside of the factory walls with the safety net provided by the company—isn’t this misguided? In a society where layoffs happen every day, where people commit suicide because of youth unemployment, isn’t returning to the factory with the slogan “we all live together” only about our own survival? Of course, this is understandable, and we are desperate. If we think about all the years since we were laid off, which we can’t ever get back, and what they brought—violence, incarceration, painful days imposed by the damage compensation lawsuits and the property seizures—returning to the factory sounds like a dream. But layoffs are rampant in our society, and all the indicators show that the recession

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in the global economy means we cannot recover the stable employment of short-term contracts. Doesn’t this mean that as we return to the factory, we should make new changes in our local communities and our lives at the same time? We can’t keep repeating the fight against the layoffs every time. Because layoffs are murder, but at the same time they are also everyday life. (Lee 2015, 112, emphases added)

Based on the recognition that layoffs are both an acute crisis and a mundane practice in the contemporary capitalist system, Lee demands fundamental social changes beyond the “narrow” demand of returning to the factory to address structural insecurity. In his words, “Living within this structure, under which the financial capacity of a company determines the quality of life for its workers, in a hyper-competitive society, is not at all different from the extreme risk of enjoying life at the edge of a cliff” (Lee 2015, 113). The following section delves into the social critique of the Ssangyong workers who refused to simply return to “the edge of a cliff” and instead offered an alternate vision of politics and ethics.

THE EMERGING CRITIQUE: IMAGINING LABOR AND LIVING BEYOND CAPITALISM As the Ssangyong workers fought to return to their work in the factory, they began to reflect on their former selves as workers and the system under which they labored. It was no longer a simple fight to be rehired, but rather a reclamation of their humanity as workers through social critique in words and action. Lee Chang-Geun argues, “Workers in struggle are scholars who know the dirtiest laundry and the secrets of capital,” and hence they should take up “the role of agents in society rather than pitiful objects of solidarity” (Lee 2015, 114). In response to the crisis of labor and living, what kind of critique do the laid-off workers in Ssangyong Motors offer in reclaiming their labor and lives beyond the parameters of employment relations under ghost capital? Lee tells a story about one regret he had during the 2009 strike, when one colleague suggested building a car by themselves during the occupation of the factory, an idea that was never picked up because of the urgency of the day-today struggle. He now regrets it because “we lost the opportunity to show very clearly who the true owners of the factory were, not through writing or speech. Doing so offered the opportunity to say ‘see, even though you try so hard to kick

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us out, we are the workers who make the cars’ and confirm ‘we are the owners of the factory’ (Lee 2015, 119–120).” This became the impetus for the H-20000 Project that took place in June 2013. With the donation of 80 million won from 20,000 supporters, the laid-off Ssangyong workers gathered in a car repair shop for two days, deconstructing and then rebuilding a Ssangyong SUV using all 20,000 auto parts. The H-20000 Project, Lee claims, was a way to reorganize the relationship of workers to the process of production. From his own work experience, he describes the labor process at the Ssangyong factory as one of mundane alienation, echoing a Marxist insight: People think that after working in an automobile factory for twenty years we would all be experts on cars. But surprisingly, most workers don’t know about cars that much. Under the conveyer system, the workers become compartmentalized and are unable to understand the full process of car-making. While we assemble the assigned parts day and night like machines, at certain moments the boundary between the machine and the human disappears. The reality of the factory is that I may only know how my and others’ work are related through voluntary, personal interest. And even if we have interest, what we get to know is extremely partial. It’s not as if the workers are able to run the machines, the means of production. From the beginning, the workers are structurally barred from the production process. The fierce fight over the means of production between the capitalists and the workers is taking place in factories daily. (Lee 2015, 120)

The project of building a car in the factory while on strike, an unrealized dream for Lee, was an action to overcome workers’ alienation inherent in the capitalist labor process and to assert that workers are more than “machine parts.” This became the impetus for the H-20000 Project, the meaning of which Lee elaborates: If the layoffs are a forced expulsion of labor by capital, this project of building a car is a process by which the laid-off workers “consciously” meet with labor. Furthermore, this project shows that workers’ lives are not determined by the benevolence and decisions of capital, but rather are self-determined by our choices and decisions. We are building a car with 20,000 auto parts, like we would put together a puzzle, as we collect pieces of broken connections and solidarity.

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Workers follow the rules and instructions of capital and coordinate their own habits and everyday routines accordingly. They don’t necessarily do this for anyone in particular but just devote their efforts to surviving within this system. But capital ignored these efforts. They didn’t treat workers as people, but rather pieces of machinery. Now we will reject this. We will prove that it is a misconception that capital can just play with workers in the palms of their hands. The 20,000 auto parts are not mere machine parts but the flesh of people. With twenty thousand hearts and souls, Ssangyong’s laidoff workers are now attempting to build a car. We want to work. (Lee 2015, 295–296)

Kim Dae-Yong, another laid-off Ssangyong worker, participated in the H-20000 Project, being part of the collective that Lee Chang-Geun imagined had the potential to reconfigure the meaning of labor. Kim had grown up intimately familiar with cars because of his taxi-driving father and joined Ssangyong Motors in 1995 after attending a vocational high school. Until he was let go, he cultivated his expertise and passion with cars to the extent that when he saw a Ssangyong car on the street, he could proudly assert that he knew which year it was produced by looking at the paint color (Jông 2014, 12). After the layoffs he drove a taxi for a living, but after his friend and a coworker committed suicide, he gave up everything to devote himself full-time to Ssangyong activism. He recalled his experience with the H-20000 Project as like a homecoming: When the Korando [Ssangyong SUV] came in during H-20000, I understood what people mean when they say their whole lives flashed before their eyes. It passed through before my eyes. My whole life passed by like in a movie, and I understood every process of production. The whole production process flashed before my eyes. When I looked at the car from the side, I could see that it was repainted. It had been painted on a clear day, not that long ago. When I smelled the solvent, I liked it very much. I felt nostalgic. I don’t know. I was ecstatic. Like I came back home after a long time. So many thoughts passed through my mind, and I was eager to go back. All I could think about was the factory. (Jông 2014, 15)

Go Dong-Min, after participating in the H-20000 Project, echoed Kim DaeYong’s sense of joy. As he was building the car and sweating, he was reminded of why he wanted to return to the factory. At the same time, however, he raised a complicated question: “Should I return to the factory to this kind of work? After

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I have become a new person? I am no longer a person acting like a machine part as I did when I worked at the factory. Now I am freer and a new person. Should I go back to the factory just like before?” (Jông 2014, 231). Go struggled to reconcile his strong desire to return to work and not to return under the same conditions as before. He clarified, “What I meant by not needing to go back to the factory is that I don’t want to return to ‘that kind’ of factory. I don’t want to go back to the factory without souls. I no longer want to live like we are machines. If I return one day, I will live with a dream of a different life, not like ‘I just want to get by today’ ” (Jông 2014, 232). The ability to dream, to have imagination, was critical for Go, as he told himself, “Okay, when I return to the factory, I will show them there are people who can dream. Then we will make more people like that” (Jông 2014, 231–232). He articulated what he imagined as a new way of living: I think what we lack the most is imagination. Some people say that they are grateful that many people know about the Ssangyong Motors issue. They say it’s meaningful but it’s all futile [጖ჶ]. Making a car like this [for the H-20000 Project] is a meaningful but futile act. Also futile is standing in front of Daehanmun. Je-Sôn and Han Yun-Su standing here is futile. But I don’t agree with that. That’s because people have not yet seen how we are trying to solve the issue of irregular employment, the problem of layoffs. They call it futile because they haven’t seen it. But I call it imagination. I want Jông-Man and Sang-Gu and all our brothers to return to the factory. It’s my sincere dream. We did not fight against the Lee Myung-Bak government. We wanted to live. We want to live. And I want to be a new person, someone who does not forget what happened over the past five years. When I return to the factory, I do not want to live as if what I had said, thought, and done in these five years would just remain in the past. I want these experiences to be alive for the rest of my life. Like the 77-day-strike became the resource that enabled the five-year struggle, I want these five years to empower my life. (Jông 2014, 232–233)

For Go, wanting to live as a new person meant reevaluating the standard of short-term utility that people use to assign value to actions. Even if setting up a memorial in Daehanmun or building a car for the H-20000 Project may not have yielded immediate results and were therefore “futile” in other people’s eyes, for him these constituted a new way of living that he discovered during the struggle. He now cherishes this new way and wants to cultivate it.

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Likewise, Yu Je-Sôn, an irregular worker at Ssangyong Motors who dedicated himself to labor activism, recalled a transformed sense of self and living. Leaving home for the factory at 7:30 a.m. and coming back at 9:50 p.m., he characterized himself while working at Ssangyong as someone who “disliked thinking.” Instead of serious reading materials, he preferred action or fantasy novels, because, as he says, “If I think, then I have to change, which I was afraid of.” But the strike and the crisis that followed changed him: “I used to dislike thinking, spending every minute of idle time reading action novels, but now I think every waking moment.” Yu reflected on his self-transformation during the long years of struggle: In the early days of the strike, my mind was filled with different things. I wanted to go back to daily life. I felt humiliated and angry about the unfairness of it all. But now I wonder if the daily life that I say I want to return to was really my life. Is what I believed to be my daily life the one that I want to return to? I don’t think I can return to the life where I ate alone, exercised alone, cleaned alone, worked alone, and read alone. I think I had a clear goal when my main motivation was anger, humiliation, or helplessness. Now my motivation is no longer anger or helplessness, and my sense of the goal is blurred. But my contemplation (gomin) is deeper. Every day, I reflect. Every day I make a choice. I ask myself every day, “should I continue like this tomorrow?” I ask, “Now I am fighting to become a regular worker, but what should I do when I return to Ssangyong Motors as a regular worker?” Now there are many inner conflicts and the goals have become less clear. It is not clear what my goal is. What do I really want? What do I want to do? I am asking myself. (Jông 2014, 198–199)

What the years of struggle brought Yu was a way of living, one that is no longer dictated by a predetermined agenda—returning to his old job at the factory—or swept up by heightened emotions—of anger and helplessness—but instead was guided by deliberate contemplation and conscious decisions. It was an examined life that he was deprived of in his previous factory days but one he found anew. Yu was no longer alone but surrounded by his fellow workers and their allies. Building on a new sense of self and community, Ssangyong workers articulated their yearning for a different way of life on and beyond the factory floor. For Yang Hyông-Geun, this meant allowing themselves the power of imagination to transcend capitalism in everyday practices, especially how we relate to

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one another. Speaking about his desire to work and live in a different way than before, he stated: The real hope is in knowing how to despise capitalism even when you live in a capitalist society. It is a world where money rules and money can do anything, but I don’t want that. Before I was laid off, my work unit used to go to karaoke after work. Then there were hostesses. I don’t know how these hostesses came all the way to karaoke in Pyôngtaek. But anyway, when men get drunk, they act thoughtlessly. Once, ten of us went out to drink, and we called three hostesses. It was a long time ago, but this young guy cursed at a woman even though she was older than him. So, I called him a jerk and scolded him, and he said, “I bought her for 20,000 won.” I replied, “Hey, what is this 20,000, 30,000 won that makes you dismiss someone’s humanity?” I told him, “You have no morals. How much money do you even have? How can you disrespect people like this? Don’t live like that.” And he said, “This is capitalism.” In our lives we get married, have children, and go back and forth between work and home. That’s our life, and it’s not a livable life if you take out the stress from work on people like that. Work may seem like it’s everything, but work doesn’t contain my whole life, my whole being. I want to live in a world where we can live together with or without money, and where labor is respected. (Jông 2014, 258–259)

Asserting his refusal to “thoughtlessly” follow the rules of the game in this capitalist world, Yang critically evaluates the lives of his fellow workers prior to the layoffs as following the logic that “money rules.” This may have been an economically stable life based around work and family, but it was “not a livable life.” The workers’ labor was not respected, and they themselves did not respect the work and human dignity of others, especially those who had less power in gender and class terms. Through such reflections, what Ssangyong workers like Yang demand is not a return to the past, but a different way of working and living that is governed by morals and respect, not money. Lee Chang-Geun echoes the call for imagining new ways of living, as he writes about where to find hope while living under the current capitalist order: The only way to win against capital in a world ruled by it is not to be afraid of it. For that to happen, we need to be free from capital. Ripping up the contract between alpha and beta [between the powerful and the powerless, ੣/ၕ] that imprisons us, being free from money, not being obsessed about

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money-making—would this be the way to free us? These things are probably possible only in our imagination, like in a movie. But if we give up on imagination because it is not easy, there is no way we can free ourselves from the fear that imprisons us. It is a different matter to live in this reality and accept it as inevitable. . . . Perhaps what can save this world—where the monster of capital rules, a world infected by the taste of money—are not strong rulers or powerful heroes, but rather the lives of these little workers who commit suicide, being thrown away while protecting the memorial photos of their dead fellow workers and fighting to protect this small tent. (Lee 2015, 323)

For Lee, freeing oneself from the firm grip of the power of money requires a new outlook on how to assign value. To many people’s eyes, the Daehanmun memorial might have seemed insignificant. It was just a small makeshift tent in the center of Seoul. Such people might likewise have viewed the demands of the laid-off Ssangyong workers as futile and unrealistic. Yet, to Lee, the persistent collective action of the vulnerable, who had been “thrown away” by capital, assaulted by the police, and defeated in the courts, is a testament to the fact that there are other ways to live than by giving in to power relations dictated by money, and that we should imagine other possibilities. And this is where a radical critique can begin, based on the recognition that “layoffs are murder, but they are also everyday life,” and that we are still able to find a way to change this world, free and without fear.

CODA: THE RETURN AND THE CRISIS THAT CONTINUES The struggle of the laid-off workers in Ssangyong Motors continued year after year, gaining momentum and broad support from South Korean civil society and the public. In December 2014, two union leaders, Lee Chang-Geun and Kim JôngWuk, occupied a seventy-meter-high smokestack at the Ssangyong Factory as a “sky protest,” which lasted 89 and 101 days, respectively. The protest pressured the Mahindra Group into negotiating. In December 2015, an agreement was finally reached so that the workers could return to the factory based on projected production demand (Yi 2017). Lee Chang-Geun finally returned to the SUV production line in February 2016 (Yi and Kim 2016). In September 2018, the CEO of Ssangyong Motors visited the Daehanmun memorial to pay his respects to Kim Ju-Jung, the first time that Ssangyong

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management had visited the memorial since the 2009 layoffs. As the thirtieth and last death related to the layoffs, Kim committed suicide after suffering from police violence during the factory strike and economic difficulties caused by unemployment, while still on unpaid leave from Ssangyong and patiently waiting to return (Jông 2018). The CEO’s visit marked the end of an era, with the long-awaited agreement between management and the union that allowed all remaining workers to return to the factory. The union leader, Kim Deuk-Jung, visited the memorial to present to his deceased comrades the signed agreement that guaranteed the workers’ return (Jang 2019). Finally on May 4, 2020, the last of forty-eight laid-off workers, including Kim, returned to the Ssangyong factory, ending the long struggle against the layoffs (Bak 2020). In 2018, the investigative committee of the police commission on human rights violations found that in the case of Ssangyong Motors, the police wrongfully intervened in a labor dispute that should have been resolved by management and workers, and it recommended an official apology from the police to the workers and their families, which was offered in July 2019. Yet the civil lawsuit for compensation on the part of the police that put Ssangyong workers and union leaders in debt was not yet fully dropped (Jông 2019). As the last of the workers returned to the factory in May 2020, the crisis at Ssangyong Motors had not ended. Talk circulates that the Mahindra Group may leave the company behind. The South Korean government is considering a bailout for certain industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is unclear whether companies that were having difficulties before the pandemic will be eligible (Yi 2020). Without government support, Ssangyong Motors may change hands to another representative of ghost capital, possibly propelling a renewed wave of layoffs. The story of the laid-off Ssangyong Motors workers and their eleven-year struggle is exceptional in many ways. Reversing the layoffs was an almost impossible goal under neoliberal capitalism, both in South Korea and beyond, as countless workers lose their jobs daily or cannot even access a formal labor contract and a stable job to begin with in the proliferating gig economy. With such shifting conditions of work and weakening labor protections, the partial success story of Ssangyong Motors is significant, not only for its outcome, but also for the critique that the struggle has engendered. The workers at Ssangyong Motors and their allies, with their words and actions, challenged the idea that layoffs and contingent employment are inevitable realities. In doing so, they articulated a critique of the crisis of labor and living under ghost capital and called for a different vision to reorganize their workplaces and communities beyond market laws.

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What the various South Korean civil society groups responded to was not a simple call for the workers’ return to the factory floor, but the vision of a different way of life based on respect for their labor and humanity. And it is this call to rebuild society and change how we relate to one another that will remain at the heart of the critique. NOTE 1. Public health researchers led by Seung-Sup Kim at Korea University studied the health of laid-off Ssangyong workers (in 2015) and the health of their families (in 2018); they reported that 50.5 percent of the workers who participated in the strike suffered from PTSD, 82.6 percent of their spouses had symptoms of depression, and 48 percent had suicidal ideation (Bak 2020).

REFERENCES Bak, Soyông. 2020. “བဧᅍ ብႉ 11ஶ  .  .  . ౵೻஁ ‘ጄધ ጢཇ’ ዳ࿌஁ ‘࿨ఝ ႜཅ’’. Hankook Ilbo, May 4. &dtype=&dtypecode=&prnewsid. Choi, Eul-Yông. 2012. “࿥ໜၦ ஆၴพఋ ஆໜ ཉ൘൐ ధ ၹ ྦఋ–ဉೢ ྦྤ჎௴ ੿൘ၡ ၡຫ ႜጩཅ”. Choo, Hae Yeon. 2016. “In the Shadow of Working Men: Gendered Labor and Migrant Rights in South Korea.” Qualitative Sociology 39 (4): 353–73. Chun, Jennifer Jihye. 2005. “Public Dramas and the Politics of Justice: Comparison of Janitors’ Union Struggles in South Korea and the United States.” Work and Occupations 32 (4): 486–503. Gong, Ji-young. 2012. ၡၴூၦ. Seoul: Humanist. Han, Su-Jin. 2013. “ႜၡૐጢຫ႞ఎ, བဧᅍ ึጎ໴ ᅪ੿ဉ ࿨ጌ ๗ን”. Catholic News, June 11. Hwang, Ye-Rang. 2017. “བဧᅍၡ 29฀ᄆ ჏ၗ”. Hankyore21, July 12. /society/society_general/43842. Jang, Eun-Kyo. 2019. “4฀ ఎང, 30඗ၡ ౏ഭ ၬၔ ႔௴ ‘ൠხൡ ฟჯၴ’ၮఁఋ”. Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 6. #csidx1e713013ebd86c28fa1b044309405f2. Jông, Hwang-Bong. 2018. “5ஶൢ࿝ ఋགྷ  .  .  .ఝዽබ ླ བဧᅍ ி౏ၴ ึጎ໴ “ະ഍ ஏೡ”. Hankyore, July 3. 46378403b5c6244b94abd58f87aa346. Jông, Hwang-Bong. 2019. “ූ੣ല ‘ઠᅑഎ ஆဧ ጸၨ’ ၨ૟ᆹጄ ຫઁ ዳጄၴ࿝ ჯႚ ຫ઴”. Hankyore, July 26. Jông, Hye-Yun. 2014. ૯ၡ ༽ደ઴ ૺມ. Seoul: Humanitas. Kim, Jong-Mok. 2014. “લხ࿱ྜ ‘ၡၴூၦ’ 11ൢิ ኖྤ, ၨໞ 3࿍8000ൢဴ བဧᅍ ጄધ ၴ ፎဴ”. Kyunghyang Shinmun, February 10. .html?art_id=201402102058415.

96 Social Movements Kim, Jun-Ki. 2018. “ఝዽබ ึጎ໴”. Kyunghyang Shinmun, September 13. _news/khan_art_view.html?art_id=201809132054025#csidxca41974354517d7ba6aae43a74ca437. Kwôn, Jông-Du. 2015. ‘‘‘བဧᅍ ๗૰’ၔ ጢႁჰጌጨ . . . ‘࿑ൠ୾ ధ ჏࿌྽’ ”. Sisaweek, May 4. Lee, Chang-Guen. 2015. ጄધၩૺ. Seoul: Owoleubom. Lee, Mun-Young. 2018. “བဧᅍ 30฀ᄆ ຫ൫ၴ, ૯ਜ਼ ஆૼ ൠხൡ ൥”. Hankyore, June 28. http:// Lee, Yoonkyung. 2015. “Sky Protest: New Forms of Labour Resistance in Neo-Liberal Korea.” Journal of Contemporary Asia 45 (3): 443–64. Lee, Yoonkyung. 2019. “Neo-Liberal Methods of Labour Repression: Privatised Violence and Dispossessive Litigation in Korea.” Journal of Contemporary Asia 51 (1): 20–37. /00472336.2019.1663552. Yi, Jae-Hoon, and Tae-Hyông Kim. 2016. “བဧᅍ ጄધ ி౏ၴ 18඗, 7ஶ ൢ࿝ ᆖ૱෾༺ ሰ ఋ”. Hankyore, February 1. #csidx01840b1d536e6b49eafd90647cb35b0. Yi, Jae-Yôn. 2020. “བဧᅍ, ઠ࿱၁ૺ གྷၵౘ 2008ஶพఋ ཉੜ”. Hankyore, May 20. http://www Yi, Mun-Young. 2017. “ဨ൘௴ ၦ႞྽ ૔ೀ࿝໏ ஏ഍တఋ”. Hankyore, February 3. http://www

5 Remaking the Demos “from Below”? Critical Theory, Migrant Struggles, and Epistemic Resistance RO B I N C E L I K AT E S


ohammad Zatareih wakes up early on the morning of Friday, September 4, 2015. The twenty-five-year old refugee left his home more than half a year earlier and has been sleeping rough at the Keleti train station in Budapest for several nights, together with a growing number of refugees, most of whom are fleeing the devastating war in Syria.1 More than 3,000 of them are now in makeshift camps at the train station, without proper access to sanitation, food, or medical help, stuck without a viable perspective after the Hungarian government suspended international train and bus travel. Together with his friend Ahmed, Mohammad decides to leave this unbearable situation and to mobilize people to walk toward the Austrian border (170 km from Budapest). They realize their chances of actually crossing the border depend on numbers and visibility. Shortly after noon, the refugees start getting organized; they assemble in rows and start walking. Their march sets off in the direction of Vienna and quickly grows to over 2,000 people. They decide to walk via the highway, even as the police try to stop them, increasing their visibility and securing much-needed media attention. En route, they witness spontaneous acts of solidarity by Hungarian citizens handing out water, baby food, and blankets, offering rides in cars or on bicycles, and often explicitly rejecting their government’s repressive and cruel policies. At exactly the same time the marchers set off, the European Union’s (EU’s) twenty-eight foreign ministers meet in Luxemburg to discuss ways to curb illegal migrant crossings on the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy. They are unaware that the political constellation is about to fundamentally change due to the collective act of the marching refugees. A few hours later, the German

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chancellor Angela Merkel, still on her routine schedule in the German province, sees the first images of the march on her iPad and immediately gets on the phone with her Austrian counterpart. They both realize that the march presents a momentous challenge to the border regime that could only be stopped violently. Shortly after midnight, the German and Austrian governments decide to open their borders and to allow the refugees to cross. Although the politicians frame their decision as a humanitarian exception limited to a small number of refugees, in truth, they had already conceded that the political force behind this historical (if momentary) shift in policy was not the government but the #marchofhope (as it came to be called on social media) (see Kasparek and Speer 2015). The political iconography of the march came to symbolize the collapse of the EU’s border regime as well as the capacity of refugees and migrants to collectively assert and perform their right to mobility, protesting the lack of safe and legal routes across the borders of Europe.2 As Majd, another one of the refugees on the march, put it: “When we walk, we make our decision. We don’t wait for others to give us solutions. Stand up my people. We all stand up, go walk” (Domokos et al. 2015). In this chapter, I take the march as a starting point to challenge dominant discourses on the “the refugee crisis.” These discourses understand the crisis as a momentary breakdown of an otherwise functional system in the face of an overwhelming influx of migrants and the only adequate response to it as the reassertion of control over its borders by the nation-state (and by the EU), while allowing for humanitarian exceptions for “those who really deserve it.”3 In this framing, refugees and migrants only come up as passive subjects, as part of a “wave” that caused the crisis, as victims of the crisis in need of “our” assistance, or as tricksters trying to jump the queue, exploiting the crisis without having a valid claim. However, also on the left there are those who reduce the refugee or the migrant to absolute victimhood or celebrate migrants as the vanguards of a politics-to-come without paying any attention to the perspectives, practices, and agency of migrants themselves.4 This is surprising because it was precisely actual migrant perspectives, practices, and agency that politicized the question of borders and led to a genuine political break, breach, or opening in 2015, an opening that not only subverted the EU’s border regime but also fundamentally challenged how migrants and refugees are represented.5 At least temporarily, they managed to break down the dualistic grid of securitization and “discretionary humanitarianism” (Fassin 2011, 213), manifesting the political and epistemic agency of those usually depersonalized in the vocabulary of “floods,” “flows,” or “streams.” All too often stripped of their agency altogether or caught in the dichotomy of victims versus villains, refugees and migrants returned to the political scene as political

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subjects in their own right, speaking in their own name (albeit, of course, not in the name of “all” refugees or migrants) (see Hess et al. 2017). In what follows, I focus on migrant and refugee activism during the “summer of migration” as an example of how political struggles can play an active role in producing (rather than just responding to) crises as well as knowledge about them. The epistemic and political significance of this knowledge is spelled out with reference to a central insight from standpoint theory, namely that it is often precisely those who are subjected to social oppression and thereby epistemically marginalized who turn out to be epistemically privileged with regard to identifying crises for what they are (see Celikates 2020). In the case of migrants, it is literally those at the margins who run into and push against boundaries most people in the Global North have never directly experienced and are not aware of. They thus force the more privileged to confront the ways in which both the internal and external boundaries of the state function—potentially reconfiguring what bell hooks (1989, 20, 23) calls “imposed marginality” as “a site of deprivation” into a “space of radical openness” and a “site of radical possibility, a space of resistance” from which “counter-hegemonic discourse” can emerge. Building on the case of migrant and refugee activism and the ways in which it theorizes, denaturalizes, and politicizes borders, I will highlight the production of knowledge about crises that takes place within social and political movements that are ordinarily only seen as responses to preexisting crises. The preexisting crises—primarily economic, political, and social crises in the countries of origin— are real enough and take a prominent, indeed determining place in the public imagination. However the crises at the border and, more generally, the border regime itself as a permanent crisis—crisis not as moment or exception but as structure or normalcy—only rarely pierce the mental cordon sanitaire that props up the lethal logic of the border regime around us. The opening forced by Mohammad, Majd, and their fellow refugees points us beyond this logic to a different understanding of borders and migration, and ultimately of citizenship and democracy.

STANDPOINT THEORY AND THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CONSTRUCTION OF CRISES “FROM BELOW” The example of the march of refugees from Budapest to the Austrian border and then on to Germany—as well as other instances of refugee activism before, during, and after the “summer of migration”—provides a powerful illustration for how, in Martin Luther King’s famous words, political struggles seek to

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“create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community is forced to confront the issue” it managed to ignore for too long (King 1991, 291). The more general theoretical claim this suggests is that different forms of “street politics” (Bayat 1997, chap. 1; Bayat 2010, Introduction)—from mass marches via direct action and civil disobedience to “riots” and uprisings—can not only be seen as responses to, or symptoms of, crises, but as active “agents” in producing crises and critical and emancipatory knowledge about them. This knowledge can also counteract objectivist tendencies in critical theory that see crises merely, or primarily, in terms of structural contradictions and ignore, or underestimate, the crisis-producing and -enhancing effects of social and political movements. These forms of “politics from below” are, then, not only to be understood as sophisticated and theoretically informed forms of critique; their significance goes further and involves a kind of epistemic reversal: it is often precisely those who are subjected to social oppression and thereby epistemically marginalized who turn out to be epistemically privileged with regard to identifying crises for what they are.6 This is the general insight of standpoint theory, which is also applicable to thinking about borders and migration, and which remains of crucial importance to any critical theory that seeks to avoid the reproduction of epistemic asymmetries.7 Two more concrete claims can spell out this general insight and help to show that the orientation toward actual practices of critique does not stand in opposition to the critical potential of critical theories. As these two claims suggest, the turn to actual practices of critique can indeed lead to a more complex understanding of how crises unfold and are (co-)produced. The first is the socio-epistemological claim that societies are not epistemically homogeneous, composed of similarly situated epistemic subjects who are, to roughly the same degree, subject (or not) to ideological distortion; rather, societies are epistemically fragmented, especially along the lines of class, gender, and race, and thus members of dominant and dominated groups will be subject to group-specific cognitive, but also affective, perceptive, and mnemonic constraints (see Sullivan and Tuana 2007). The second is the historical-sociological claim that epistemic constraints tend to negatively affect primarily those subjects who are members of dominant groups, while members of dominated groups can be seen as epistemically privileged in that they can come to understand social relations of domination due to their specific position (see Mills 2017). This privilege is not due to some inherent capacity or mysterious access to “the truth” but rather to specific experiences and practices that can be identified and reconstructed in a historical and sociological perspective. As W. E. B. Du Bois (2007, 8) argues, the “double-consciousness”

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and “second sight” of those who are born within “the veil” are an effect of the structural racism they are subjected to and need to navigate. It forces and thus enables them to develop the capacity to entertain two perspectives, two ways of thinking, and two ways of looking at and navigating the world. It is this highly ambivalent experience that allows them to see the dominant standpoint for what it is, a standpoint, rather than an unquestioned, universal truth. In a similar vein, Patricia Hill Collins (1986, 1989) speaks of the knowledge and practical wisdom that the subordinate need to survive—especially Black women who live as “outsiders within” at the intersection of different social worlds. Again, it is the social world they are confronted with that both forces and allows them to develop their own practices of knowledge and theory production and validation. Members of such dominated groups thus potentially partake in what José Medina (2013, 192) calls “meta-lucidity”: “Meta-lucid subjects are those who are aware of the effects of oppression in our cognitive structures and of the limitations in the epistemic practices (of seeing, talking, hearing, reasoning, etc.) grounded in relations of oppression: for example, the invisibilization of certain phenomena, experiences, problems, and even entire subjectivities. Oppressed subjects are in a better position to achieve these insights because they are the very embodiment of those cognitive limitations and suffer directly the cognitive biases and vitiated cognitive structures that support the relations of oppression.” These two claims seem to contradict a powerful line of thought in critical theory that locates social ignorance and ideology on the side of the oppressed and sees such ignorance and ideology as a functional requirement for the smooth reproduction of the status quo. If one subscribes to this line of thought, theory has little to learn from dominated groups. Patricia Hill Collins (1989, 746–47) directly addresses this position and its assumption of asymmetry when she writes: “Black women’s everyday acts of resistance challenge . . . claims that subordinate groups identify with the powerful and have no valid independent interpretation of their own oppression, . . . that oppressed groups lack the motivation for political activism because of their flawed consciousness of their own subordination.”8 Standpoint epistemology is sometimes criticized for naïvely assuming that positionality translates into epistemic privilege and that the very idea of positionally enabled epistemic privilege opens the door to subjectivism and particularism. Both criticisms rely on a misunderstanding and simplification of standpoint theory that a careful reading of the classical texts readily exposes. First, most standpoint theorists explicitly emphasize that a critical standpoint is never a given but rather the result of hard work and struggle, both epistemically

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and politically, based in shared, but far from homogeneous, experiences and practices. As Collins (1989, 749) puts it: “While an oppressed group’s experiences may put them in a position to see things differently, their lack of control over the apparatuses of society that sustain ideological hegemony makes the articulation of their self-defined standpoint difficult.” There is thus no basis for the assumption that there is some kind of automatism linking positionality (or identity) and critical insight. Second, most standpoint theorists emphasize that standpoints and their epistemic advantages and disadvantages cannot simply be asserted but stand in need of sociological and historical substantiation. Neither are all groups confronted with the same practical necessity of understanding and navigating existing relations of domination and oppression, nor do all of them have the same kind of emancipatory interest in overcoming the status quo—but these are precisely the two primary sources of alternative critical epistemologies. In addition, Du Bois and Collins both point to subaltern cultural practices, institutional structures, and publics that provide the concrete and material conditions of possibility for the emergence, articulation, and validation of standpoints that cut off the alleged slippery slope into the relativism and arbitrariness the critics of standpoint theory seem so worried about. In Collins’s example, it is precisely factors such as these that explain why Black women were able to develop a critical standpoint significantly earlier than their socially atomized white counterparts. What is more, bringing marginalized forms of knowledge, critique, and resistance to the fore precisely aims at rectifying, at least partially, the glaring lack of objectivity that characterizes dominant forms of knowledge despite their self-certification as neutral and universal. This unmasking of the presumably universal as particular, of a perspective as a perspective, should be familiar enough to critical theorists because it is among the fundamental tools in the critique of ideology. Standpoint theory has some significant implications for critical theory that should be evident even on the basis of this truncated summary of what is, after all, a long and complex theoretical tradition. At least some ideologies—racism being the most obvious case—seem to primarily (albeit certainly not exclusively) impose epistemic constraints on the members of dominant groups, blocking them from developing an adequate understanding of social relations of domination. In my view, the same holds for ideologies connected to borders and migration when they are conceptualized from the perspectives of citizens whose privileges are constituted and protected by the border regime in question and whose identities are shaped by it. The alternative standpoints and corresponding counter-hegemonic practices and forms of knowledge established and

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articulated by members of dominated groups can thus provide a theoretically informed as well as politically relevant social critique “from below”—a type of “epistemic resistance” (Medina 2013, 3) that mobilizes epistemic resources and capacities against domination and oppression and the cognitive-affective mechanisms that contribute to their reproduction. Insofar as critical theory can be seen as “nothing but the continuation, by means of a controlled scientific methodology, of the cognitive labor that oppressed groups have to perform in their everyday struggles when they work to de-naturalize hegemonic patterns of interpretation and to expose the interests by which these are motivated” (Honneth 2017, 919), these forms of “epistemic resistance” have a dual significance for critical theory: first, they can anchor critical theory within social reality, and thus help it redeem one of its foundational claims—to be grounded in oppositional forms of consciousness and actually existing practices of critique and resistance, and feed back into them (see Celikates 2018); second, they can serve as a counterweight—in the sense of the “reflexive accountability” invoked by Collins (2019, 64 and chaps. 2, 4)—to the tendency of critical theories to deny the existence of theoretically sophisticated critique and resistance on the ground and thereby reproduce rather than transform the obstacles to equal participation in knowledge production. The rich literature on migrant and refugee political agency demonstrates how decentering methodological nationalism and the hegemonic viewpoint of the citizen can lead to a more complex understanding of migration, borders, and citizenship as essentially political and politically contested practices and institutions (see, e.g., Balibar et al. 1999; Mezzadra 2006; McNevin 2011; Nyers and Rygiel 2012; Caraus and Paris 2018; Stierl 2019). My focus here is on epistemic resistance and the production of “epistemic crises,” in this particular case the revelation that the refugee crisis was in truth much more a crisis of established state-centered understandings of borders and of migration (and of the types of subjects refugees are supposed to be), and a crisis that borders inflicted upon migrants, rather than the crisis of a properly functioning border regime caused by uninvited migrants. Like all uses of the vocabulary of crisis and critique, this interpretation is of course contestable and limited in that it cannot and does not claim to provide a universal framework for capturing all experiences and practices of migration. Read in this way, the crisis in question can be recognized as an opening, an occasion for the construction and reconstruction of more adequate narratives and conceptualizations—not only of migration but also of democracy and its futures—that are informed by migrant epistemic resistance (see MacIntyre 1977; Medina 2013).

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MIGRANT STRUGGLES AS EPISTEMIC RESISTANCE With their struggles, migrants challenge the self-understanding of those who regard them as “strangers in our midst” (Miller 2016),9 seemingly coming from out of nowhere and for reasons that are completely unrelated to one’s own political community and its past and current place in the world order. They confront our “imperial way of life” (Wissen and Brand 2018), and the public amnesia that shields it, with historical contexts and continuities as well as persisting forms of economic and political domination beyond the nation-state. This public amnesia is a form of motivated ignorance that Charles Mills (2015, 219) calls global white ignorance—the refusal to acknowledge “that a system of illicit racial empowerment and disablement inherited from the past may still be at work, reproducing unfair privilege and handicap at different racial poles through a wide variety of interlocking societal mechanisms.” Prominent slogans of migrant movements, such as “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” and “We are here because you were/are there,” highlight this historical connection and its political implications, against the “white ignorance” that seeks to shield existing relations of domination from being criticized and challenged. They remind people in the Global North of their own agency and involvement, both past and present, in producing the conditions under which people are migrating and fleeing. These conditions did not just come into existence ex nihilo, nor are they the outcome of processes to which people in the Global North have only been passive bystanders. As Phillip Cole (Wellman and Cole 2011, 221–22) puts it, “The global migration regime of the colonial period was a system of domination and exploitation, and the current global migration regime operates in the same way.” Of course, this fact is not easily compatible with the self-image and official normative commitments of those who continue to profit from and contribute to the functioning of this regime. Against this background, migrant activism reminds those whose passports score high on the Global Passport Power Rank (in prepandemic times: Germany: 2, United States: 3, France: 4, . . .) that the border regime is not a unified geopolitical space in which people move according to the same logic. Rather, it is a highly fragmented and stratified space in which the effects of the colonialism of the past and the imperialism of the present combine to establish a mobility hierarchy that more or less mirrors global power relations (with countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria that have been subject to endless wars involving external interventions generating large refugee populations at the bottom).

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As Joseph Carens (1987, 251) famously put it: “Borders have guards and the guards have guns. This is an obvious fact of political life but one that is easily hidden from view—at least from the view of those of us who are citizens of affluent Western democracies. To Haitians in small, leaky boats confronted by armed Coast Guard cutters, to Salvadorans dying from heat and lack of air after being smuggled into the Arizona desert, to Guatemalans crawling through rat-infested sewer pipes from Mexico to California—to these people the borders, guards and guns are all too apparent.” While it is true that borders have shifted in fundamental ways, with restrictions against unwanted migrants relying on high-tech surveillance systems and forms of remote border control increasingly detached from the territorial border of the state (see Shachar 2020), their lethal presence in the life of migrants has become even more ubiquitous while all but disappearing from the life of EU citizens and Global Entry Card holders. Against this background, claiming that “we are all migrants now” (Hall 1989) or that “we are all becoming migrants” (Nail 2015a, 1) stands in danger of disregarding the fact that this regime is not unified precisely because it is massively stratified along the lines of class, race, and gender and operates under the long-lasting and ongoing effects of imperialism, colonization, and current regimes of irregularization. These effects fracture the space of migration in ways that seem difficult to homogenize into one regime. And they ground the imperative to see migration as a practice of decolonization—i.e., “to supplant the extant international legal fiction and logic of formally independent, autonomous nation-states (each with a right to exclude nonnationals as a matter of existential priority), with the logic and ethics of imperial interconnection (specifically, colonial and neocolonial interconnection) that actually exists today [leading to the reconceptualization of] Third-World migration to the First World as an entitlement of neocolonial imperial membership on grounds of political equality” (Achiume 2019, 1520–21). The march of refugees can highlight the case for recognizing epistemic agency and resistance as essential aspects of migrant struggles (see Benli 2018).10 On their way, migrants in the march held up signs with slogans denouncing the unjust, dominating, and cruel nature of the international border regime and claiming human rights, freedom of movement, and access to asylum procedures. The signs, but also interviews conducted with those participating in the marches, provide articulate expressions of their experience of the crisis, which for them is the contemporary border regime, and of their sense that they need to produce a crisis in order to make their voices heard at all. They reflect an acute awareness of the fact that what was supposed to be a system based on the right to asylum has been

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transformed into a barely disguised selective and discretionary procedure that converts asylum into a rare favor to those deemed worthy by state bureaucracies, which largely make and implement their own rules (see Fassin 2016). Despite a frequent right-wing populist complaint, it was not Merkel’s decision that prompted the refugees to make their way to Germany; rather, it was the other way around: it was the looming sense of a crisis provoked by the thousands who decided to walk to Germany that drove Merkel to take the historic decision, late at night on September 4, to open the borders and bring the refugees by train and bus from Hungary via Austria to Bavaria. The government was pushed to act by a political dynamic, a movement, at odds with the humanitarian lens through which it initially saw the situation. The march moved the question of how to deal with the refugees from a humanitarian and securitarian dispositif onto the political scene—which is to say that the very presence of the refugees as a collective on the highways and at the borders caused a disruption and forced an opening, both literally and figuratively. At the end of the weekend, two days after the march began, 18,000 refugees had arrived in Munich. At the end of 2015, more than a million had crossed into the EU in that year, more than 800,000 of which via the Balkan route. Of course, this opening also led to a variety of reactions, from the reconfiguration of the border regime and the erection of new walls and razor-wire fences, via the EU–Turkey deal and the proliferation of internment camps, to the surge of new right-wing antimigrant movements (such as Pegida, the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) and parties (such as AfD, the Alternative for Germany) (see Santer and Wriedt 2017). But these reactions are themselves a symptom of the lasting significance of the “summer of migration” (see Karakayali 2018). In a powerful and politically effective way, the march formulated and enacted a radical critique of the border regime informed both by lived experience and a sophisticated sense of what is wrong with the regime, often invoking the official normative commitments of the citizens and politicians of the countries whose borders it was crossing (see Hess et al. 2017). This critique was at the same time immanent, anchored in an experience of this regime, and radical, rejecting its functioning rather than seeking to modify it. The knowledge it is tied up with should be seen as a form of epistemic resistance that challenges the regime’s own attempts at invisibilization and whitewashing. The march can also serve as a reminder that behind and beyond the publicly visible surface of migrant collective agency—marches, occupations, encampments—there lies a field of political struggles that remains invisible: “The foot marches undertaken

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by refugees this summer, from Hungary to Austria and Germany or via Denmark to Sweden, demonstrate that the largely invisible political practices of appropriating mobility can become visible political acts, even dominating public discourses and controversies in Europe and beyond” (Ataç et al. 2015). The practical critique of the border regime that the refugee march enacted produced a crisis that was different from the one EU politicians were still thinking they addressed on the day the marchers set off from Budapest. In recent years, postmigration activism in the receiving state has become a relatively familiar phenomenon: often at great risk to themselves, irregular migrants have emerged as political subjects in the societies in which they have ended up, as they “have marched, occupied buildings, rioted, gone on strike, petitioned, blogged, written manifestos, and generally brought attention to their long-term presence in states where they live with the constant threat of deportation” (McNevin 2011, 4). However, massive forms of direct disobedience at the border and to the border regime—crossing without authorization, scaling fences (e.g., at Ceuta and Melilla), marching in large numbers along highways—have become a prominent feature of border struggles only more recently. The march of refugees has been their most visible and effective incarnation. In addition to articulating an emerging form of political subjectivity and transnational solidarity that opens up new political alliances beyond simplistic invocations of a unified people and regressive national-populist tendencies also on the left,11 the march provides an important example of the epistemic agency of refugees and migrants. Most people in the Global North never or rarely directly experience the borders these migrants confront, run into, seek to cross, shift, and circumvent, and this fundamental difference leads to a significant difference in knowledge and awareness. The corresponding shift of perspective leads to a more complex understanding of how the internal and external borders of the state, or of the EU, function and shows that the so-called crisis is not the momentary breakdown of an otherwise well-functioning system but its modus operandi. It is precisely this modus operandi that migrant struggles and movements have the potential to uncover, articulate, denaturalize, and politicize—thus making it into the object of an emancipatory form of knowledge production whose relevance has been recognized by critical migration studies but remains largely ignored by critical theorists. Refugee and migrant struggles and movements not only manifest a specific kind of constituent power, namely, the power to initiate a reconstitution of borders and categories of membership by denaturalizing, politicizing, and

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democratizing them (see Celikates 2019; Stierl 2019)—but, in so doing, they also articulate a form of emancipatory knowledge that contemporary critical theory, at least insofar as it seeks to move beyond the confines of methodological nationalism, ignores at its own peril (see Sager 2018). Again, the claim is not that all migrant struggles and movements do that, or do that in the same way. The point, rather, is to show how in this specific case features of migration and borders become, or are made, visible in a way that any theorizing about migration and borders that claims to be empirically adequate, critical, and politically responsible needs to take into account. Minimally, this shift in perspective—“seeing like a migrant” instead of “seeing like a state” (Mezzadra and Neilson 2013: 166)—requires us to move beyond the dominant understanding of the refugee and the migrant, of borders, and of migration from the point of view of stasis, of nonmovement, and of states who claim the authority, and the capacity, to unilaterally control and regulate movement. In contrast, what is called for—and what the practice of migration prefigures and generates as knowledge—is a more complex understanding of migration that is not primarily determined by lack, anomaly, or failure and that challenges ahistorical rationalizations of fundamentally racist forms of exclusion and selection (see Nail 2015a). As suggested by standpoint theory more generally, refugees and migrants can potentially lay claim to this specific type of knowledge precisely because of their marginalized position; they need to understand and navigate the social and political space of the border regime but also have a fundamental interest in developing the kind of knowledge needed for circumventing or overcoming the obstacles that this regime represents for them. In fact, they are “the very embodiment of those cognitive limitations” (Medina 2013, 192) and expose and undermine them at the same time. Put schematically, there are three insights about borders as complex social institutions and three insights about migration as a complex social practice that can serve as examples of the kinds of knowledge produced in migration that go beyond the mere creation of counter-narratives (see Celikates 2015): 1. Borders do not simply have a derived or secondary status—as if they were simply drawing the line between those who belong and those who don’t—but they are essentially productive, generative, and constitutive of the difference between citizens and migrants, and between different categories of migrants (“deserving” refugees versus economic migrants) that are fundamental to the restrictive ways in which most people think about the borders of political communities, citizenship, and belonging today (see, e.g., Balibar 1992).

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2. Borders are no longer exclusively or primarily “at the border,” at the “limits” of the state’s territory, but they have proliferated toward the interior as well as the exterior of the political community and been diffused into “borderscapes,” following those not deemed to belong around as they move (see, e.g., Mezzadra and Neilson 2013). This is especially true for the transformation of the EU’s border regime. 3. Borders do not simply enable the exclusion of noncitizens and migrants and the inclusion of citizens and guests. Their porosity and imperfection are part of their functionality and design, enabling a form of differential inclusion and selection that does not just block irregular migration but filters it. This filtering function also operates in accordance with the demands of contemporary labor markets, and due to its necessarily imperfect realization opens up some space for migrant agency at the border (see, e.g., the contributions by Mezzadra and de Genova in Jansen, Celikates, and de Bloois 2015). 4. Beyond the determinism of presumably objective push and pull factors, migrants always exercise a relative and constrained freedom in deciding whether, where, and in which ways to migrate, thus claiming and enacting a right to international freedom of movement or a “right to escape” that challenges the international border regime as a whole and its ideological underpinnings, whether this is intended or not (see, e.g., Mezzadra 2006; Cabrera 2010, chap. 5). 5. Against the objectification of migrants and migration in dominant modes of knowledge production, the singularity and individuality of each act of migration have methodological and symbolic implications in terms of taking into account the specific experiences—remember Du Bois’s exhortation to ask, “How does it feel to be a problem?” (Du Bois 2007, 7)—hopes, and aims of the agents and how these inform and shape their practice as well as the kind of knowledge they produce (see, e.g., Casas-Cortes et al. 2015, 29–31). 6. Although migration is never completely independent from objective social, economic, and political structures and conditions, it is also not determined by them and exceeds any attempt to regulate, govern, or control it by state and transnational actors, thus exemplifying a practice, or an “art,” of moving across borders, as well as constituting a movement in the thick sense of the term that is irreducibly social and political (see, e.g., Bojadžijev and Karakayali 2010). Against framing migration in terms of flows—flows across borders taken to be leaky, flows into societies considered to be homogeneous and clearly delineated12—a more complex understanding based in the knowledge migrants themselves (co-)produce about their practice stresses the agency of those who

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are, after all, not only going with the flow. Rather, migrants are actively deciding—albeit under certain constraints and often taking considerable risks—if, where, and in what ways to migrate. In their constitutive as well as disruptive political actuality and potentiality, they escape the categorizations imposed on them. This again resonates well with bell hooks’s claim, regarding Black women in the United States, that “our very presence is a disruption,” albeit a fragile one, as “mostly of course we are not there. We never ‘arrive’ or ‘can’t stay’ ” (hooks 1989, 19). Insofar as epistemic resistance can be understood as “the use of our epistemic resources and abilities to undermine and change oppressive normative structures and the complacent cognitive-affective functioning that sustains those structures” (Medina 2013, 3), the emancipatory knowledge created in practices of migration qualifies as resistant. Migrants, just like other oppressed groups, are in a privileged position to produce such knowledge because as a practical necessity they need to navigate social space by taking a multiplicity of perspectives into account, and they have an interest in developing such knowledge. In both of these respects, standpoint-theoretical arguments developed in the work of thinkers such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Patricia Hill Collins provide fruitful reference points in thinking about migrant epistemic agency without falling into the trap of idealizing and homogenizing the experiences that inform such a standpoint. While forms of resistance play a prominent role in actualizing migrant agency, so do migrant forms of sociality and practice that go beyond resistance. They create subjectivities and communities that provide—at least in part self-standing—alternatives beyond reactive or confrontational encounters, forms of sociality and practice, that is, that would also manifest the “socially constitutive power . . . that allows society to move and change” (Nail 2015a, 13; see also Nail 2015b). Correspondingly, the practice of migration politicizes borders and territories as zones of conflict and negotiation but also of cooperation and solidarity (see Forman and Cruz 2017). To point out that borders are always subject to border struggles and that migrants are involved in these struggles as agents, and thus should not be regarded as merely passive victims in need of help or as parts of objective flows and waves, is not to romanticize the structural violence of the border regime that indeed functions as a set of deadly obstructions of the freedom of movement enacted in migration, nor is it to romanticize the various conditions from and under which people migrate and flee. Rather, the fact of migration and the border struggles that result from it urge us to ask: What would it mean to reorient political practice and theory around the alternatives and potentialities that migration and border struggles open up?

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REMAKING THE DEMOS “FROM BELOW”? In order to start responding to this challenge, in this final section, I will briefly outline how democracy and struggles for democratization—the practice of remaking the demos “from below”—could be reinterpreted in light of migrant struggles. The knowledge produced in and through migrant epistemic resistance does not uniquely determine one type of critique or of politics, but it opens up a space in which existing political options appear in a different light and new ones might emerge. In the current constellation, one immediate implication concerns ideas of left populism or left nationalism. What should caution against an embrace of the idea of a left populism is the readily observable tendency of officially antiessentialist invocations of the “true people” (and presumably that means: ones that are attentive to the exclusions and marginalizations produced by these invocations) to succumb to, and indeed contribute to the escalation of, an essentializing and exclusionary dynamic (see Fassin 2019). Actually existing “left populism” offers plenty of examples, from the flag-waving La France Insoumise via the Salvini-enabling Italian Cinque Stelle to the German movement Aufstehen, whose proponents—presumably leftist politicians such as Sarah Wagenknecht and Oskar Lafontaine, but also their intellectual sympathizers such as Wolfgang Streeck—do not shy away from mimicking and thereby endorsing and normalizing right-wing anti-immigrant rhetoric. In all these cases, the populist recoding of presumably leftist political orientations drives out whatever emancipatory potential these movements might have been able to claim in the past. The deeper reason for this dynamic can be seen in what Nicholas de Genova (2018, 368) characterizes as the deep nationalist logic of populist appeals to the “real people” in an “us versus them” register: “all manifestations of populism serve to recapture the insurgent energies of emancipatory struggles and entrap the ‘common folk’ within the borders of the Nation, reinscribing a democratic political enclosure whereby human life is subordinated to and subjected by the nationalist metaphysics of state power.” Against such a logic, democracy requires us to acknowledge and institutionalize as far as possible “the open and contestable signification of democracy” and find ways to “release democracy from containment by any particular form while insisting on its value in connoting political self-rule by the people, whoever the people are” (Brown 2015, 20). What does this requirement imply for the forms of organization and self-understanding of democratic struggles and movements?

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What are its consequences for thinking about emancipatory politics in the register of hegemony, populism, and hegemonic populism? In other words: Do struggles for emancipation and democratization from the left have the same form and follow the same logic as struggles for hegemony from the right, which are evidently not concerned with, and indeed embrace the task of, constructing an exclusionary and homogeneous collective subject that can serve as the firm ground of affective identification and mobilization? Turning to migrant struggles allows us to find cues for an alternative way of undoing the demos and remaking demoi from forms of political struggle that question established notions of the people and its boundaries but might not end up embracing a positive vision of “We the people” in the singular. Migrant struggles highlight the fact that it is often precisely those who do not count as citizens, or even as political agents (women, workers, colonized subjects, migrants and refugees), who develop new forms of citizenship and of democracy that promise to be more adequate to our current political constellation of disaggregated sovereignty, traversed as it is by transnational challenges, power relations, actors and struggles, leading to complex processes of de-bordering and re-bordering that undermine the idea of territorially bounded political spaces with borders that are clearly defined and unilaterally controlled by the state. At least those futures of democracy that go beyond statist imaginaries and regressive nationalist-populist tendencies (and thus manage to qualify as futures at all) will only come into view once the challenge migration and migrant political agency pose to dominant ways of thinking and practicing citizenship and democracy is taken seriously. Indeed, both migrant and indigenous struggles question rather than instantiate the logic of hegemonic claim-making that is still so often associated with revolutionary and radically transformative political projects. In a settler-colonial context, struggles for self-determination by indigenous and occupied people and peoples clash with the state’s claim to exclusive territorial sovereignty and the underlying imaginary of popular sovereignty (see, e.g., Simpson 2014; Estes and Dhillon 2019). The radically democratic potential of indigenous struggles today can be seen precisely in the dual displacement of hegemony, which can no longer serve as the privileged logic of political articulation, and of the modern nation-state, which can no longer serve as the unquestioned terrain for democratic struggle (see Conway and Singh 2011). As a result, indigenous struggles for self-determination and against the colonial and imperial project of the modern nation-state to impose homogeneity and (territorial, cultural, political, legal) uniformity potentially escape both the framework of protest and that of dominant notions of civility, even if they might appear as “constituent powers” and

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“civic powers” in the plural (see Tully 2009: 195-221, 243-309). Similarly, in a world in which nation-states claim a unilateral right to control their borders—both the borders of their territory and the borders of membership and belonging— migrant and refugee movements can challenge a whole way of life and a political imaginary that entirely abstracts from its own structural implication in the production of the conditions that violate migrants’ “right to stay” as well as their “right to escape” (see, e.g., Celikates 2019; Mezzadra 2006). These struggles—which are, of course, also struggles for and over politicization and the boundaries of the political and which do not engage in the abstract celebration of plural subject positions for its own sake—seem to be misidentified both in their content and in their form when they are interpreted as contestatory responses to the question of “who the people really are.” The “We” in “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” and “We are here because you were/are there” is not, and does not necessarily aspire to be, the same as the “We” in “We, the People.” Not all political and social struggles of our age can be equally well articulated, or articulated at all, in the language of popular sovereignty, of sovereignty and of the people in the singular. Such a nationalpopulist articulation would also miss the prefigurative potential that resides in the ways in which these struggles challenge and transcend the dominant logic of the nation-state and its border regime by developing alternative forms of political agency, belonging, and solidarity in the here and now (see, e.g., Mensink 2020). The point is not to find a new vanguard in indigenous and migrant struggles onto which frustrated revolutionary desires can be projected. Many refugees and migrants of course (and with exceedingly good reasons) simply want their claims for asylum to be successful and might therefore make claims that reinforce rather than subvert the existing border regime and its underlying imaginary. Nevertheless, the “march of hope” and other practices of migration and border crossing open up a sense of political and theoretical possibility, a different way of thinking about migration and its political implications that holds on to what might seem like an ephemeral moment—the opening that resulted from the events of September 4–5, 2015. Migrant as well as indigenous struggles thus enable us to see the collective enactment of denied freedoms, the temporary realization of utopian possibilities in the here and now, and the practical decentering of the state for what they are: openings of the political space that reveal a revolutionary potential (see Stierl 2018: chap. 7). Radical democracy in a non-hegemonic key would thus start from the margins of the demos, from the refugees, the migrants, the exiles and those who come after them, from “the discounted, the ineligible,” “the stateless,

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the occupied, and the disenfranchised,” “confounding the distinction between inside and outside” (Butler 2015: 51, 80, 78) and questioning established notions of the people and its boundaries without ending up embracing a positive vision of “We the people.” Against this background, the march can be seen as pointing beyond claims to access existing legal statuses (such as citizen, refugee, etc.) to a different political logic that questions the foundations of how political belonging is imagined in terms of borders and citizenship. At the very least, refugee and migrant struggles—such as the “march of hope”—challenge unquestioned notions of migration and borders and as a consequence seem to require a radical revision, pluralization, and deterritorialization of the demos, of peoplehood and of its internal and external borders—all in ways that deeply unsettle the existing terms of the struggle for hegemony rather than making a move within its narrowly national-populist confines. They can thus be seen as steps toward overcoming a politics of citizenship as membership in a bordered and homogeneous community. As Anne McNevin (2020, 7) puts it with regard to citizenship as a horizon of contemporary struggles: The point is not that those engaged in struggles for border justice are likely to eschew the acquisition of citizenship. The point is rather that becoming citizens does not mark the endpoint of struggle or the point at which the contested nature of political belonging is settled. Struggles for border justice, including those of migrants who demand recognition as citizens in advance of being formally credentialised, interrupt the thrust of citizenship in its prevailing form, appropriating, reworking and transforming it. These struggles politicise citizenship and its threshold steps as sites of critique and fields of struggle in themselves.

The question is: which practices and forms of organization can accommodate rather than repress and conceal this logic of the political, which seems to push beyond hegemony as much as it moves beyond and against the borders of a world divided along state lines? The political logic of migrant activism points us to forms of the civil bond that go beyond the bounded political community of statist imaginaries both temporally and spatially. Migrants, activists, and migrant-activists appeal to a bond that goes beyond the narrowly civil, legally institutionalized, and ideologically dominant bond that exists between citizens of the same polity. The bond their struggles appeal to is civil in a broader and counter-hegemonic sense because it ties the fate of migrants and refugees

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together with that of the citizens of the wealthier states in ways that are historically deep and politically expansive (especially in the cases in which they are economically and politically entwined) (see, e.g., Naples and Mendez 2014). What would a political theory look like—and what would a democracy look like—that started with the social and political practice of migration in all its complexity, one that would be based in migrants’ experiences and practices and their own capacities to reveal and establish civil bonds as expressed in their own struggles? Maybe a good starting point is to return to Majd’s words cited in the introduction: “Stand up my people. We all stand up, go walk.”

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my fellow members of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton whose company was as intellectually stimulating as it was personally rewarding. Thanks are also due to Didier Fassin and Axel Honneth for their guidance and to all those whose comments at the two project workshops in Princeton urged me to sharpen the argument. Finally, I would like to thank audiences in Tampere, Helsinki, Frankfurt am Main, Paris, Edinburgh, and Jena for their questions and feedback. NOTES 1. The following account is primarily based on the detailed reconstruction in Blume et al. 2016 and the documentary film We Walk Together (Domokos et al. 2015); see also Jeffery et al. 2015 and the interview with Zatareih in Von Randow 2016. 2. Around the same time in Turkey, hundreds of refugees gathered close to the Turkish-Greek border to claim their right to cross it safely because they were no longer willing to take the risky boat journey from the Turkish coast to one of the Greek islands, that had already cost so many lives (almost 4,000 migrants were reported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015) (see Fiedler 2015). 3. The clearest example, in political theory, of this type of discourse is David Miller’s Strangers in Our Midst: The Political Philosophy of Immigration (Miller 2016, Postscript: The European Migration Crisis of 2015). Miller also reproduces the myth of irregular migrants “jumping the queue” (Miller 2016, 117). 4. For a critique of the denial of agency such a framing involves in the work of Giorgio Agamben, see McNevin 2013. 5. I speak of a break, breach, or opening here in the sense in which it was theorized by Morin, Lefort, and Castoriadis (1968) for the events of May 1968. Not only did this event shatter the illusion of order, social peace, and political stability, but it also resisted all attempts to

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6. 7. 8. 9.




objectify it in an analysis exclusively focused on socioeconomic factors. Albeit at a seemingly smaller scale, it is my contention that the same holds for the march. The consequences of this reversal for the field of migration studies are spelled out and exemplified in Casas-Cortes et al. 2015. What follows builds on Celikates 2020. See also, with reference to a different sociohistorical context, Scott 1990. The same mindset is behind the reframing of racism as xenophobia, which not only psychologizes a social and political problem (by comparing it to phobias) but also reproduces the racist frame by characterizing the victims of racist violence as strangers (xenoi, in ancient Greek). A similar argument could be made about the so-called migrant caravan that led thousands from Honduras to the U.S.-Mexican border; see “Border Crossing Us” 2018 and Burrell and Moodie 2019. Examples would include groups like Pueblo Sin Fronteras and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) in the United States, the French farmer Cédric Herrou and the local grassroots movement Roya Citoyenne, who are helping “illegal” (that is, irregularized) migrants cross the Italian–French border and sheltering them (for which he was given a suspended jail sentence), and the many citizens, mayors, and migrants themselves in the Italian context who mobilize against the anti-immigration laws and policies pushed by the former far-right deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini. On the cultural frames and metaphors for thinking about migration, and how they enable and make tolerable death, such as by drowning in the Mediterranean, see Jansen, Celikates, and de Bloois 2015.

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118 Social Movements Fassin, Didier. 2019. “The Blind Spots of Left Populism.” Krisis 39, no. 1: 87–90. https://archive.krisis .eu/the-blind-spots-of-left-populism/. Fiedler, Mathias. 2015. #crossingnomore: “We Don’t Want to Drown No More!” https://border Forman, Fonna, and Teddy Cruz. 2017. “The Cross-Border Public.” In Public Space? Lost and Found, ed. Gediminas Urbonas, Ann Lui, and Lucas Freeman, 169–86. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Hall, Stuart. 1989. “Ethnicity, Identity and Difference.” Radical America 23, no. 4: 9–20. Hess, Sabine, et al., eds. 2017. Der lange Sommer der Migration: Grenzregime III. Berlin: Assoziation A. Honneth, Axel. 2017. “Is There an Emancipatory Interest?” European Journal of Philosophy 25: 908–20. hooks, bell. 1989. “Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness.” Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media 36: 15–23. Jansen, Yolande, Robin Celikates, and Joost de Bloois, eds. 2015. The Irregularization of Migration in Contemporary Europe: Detention, Deportation, Drowning. London: Rowman & Littlefield. Jeffery, Simon, et al. 2015. “Europe’s Refugee Crisis: A Visual Guide to Developments in 2015.” The Guardian, October 23. /latest-developments-in-europes-refugee-crisis-a-visual-guide. Karakayali, Serhat. 2018. “The Flüchtlingskrise in Germany: Crisis of the Refugees, by the Refugees, for the Refugees.” Sociology 52, no. 3: 606–11. Kasparek, Bernd, and Marc Speer. 2015. “Of Hope: Hungary and the Long Summer of Migration.” King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1991. “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” In A Testament of Hope, 289–302. New York: HarperCollins. First published 1963. MacIntyre, Alasdair. 1977. “Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative and the Philosophy of Science.” The Monist 60, no. 4: 453–72. McNevin, Anne. 2011. Contesting Citizenship: Irregular Migrants and New Frontiers of the Political. New York: Columbia University Press. McNevin, Anne. 2013. “Ambivalence and Citizenship: Theorising the Political Claims of Irregular Migrants.” Millennium 41, no. 2: 182–200. McNevin, Anne. 2020. “Time and the Figure of the Citizen.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 33: 545–59.–4. Medina, José. 2013. The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mensink, Sander. 2020. “Prefiguration, Strategic Interaction and Political Belonging in Undocumented Migrant and Solidarity Movements.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 46, no. 7: 1223–39. Mezzadra, Sandro. 2006. Diritto di fuga: Migrazioni, cittadinanza, globalizzazione. Verona: Ombre corte. Mezzadra, Sandro, and Brett Neilson. 2013. Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Miller, David. 2016. Strangers in Our Midst: The Political Philosophy of Immigration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Mills, Charles. 2015. “Global White Ignorance.” In International Handbook of Ignorance Studies, ed. Matthias Gross and Linsey McGoey, 217–27. London: Routledge.

Remaking the Demos “from Below”? 119  Mills, Charles W. 2017. “White Ignorance.” In Black Rights/White Wrongs, 49–71. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Morin, Edgar, Claude Lefort, and Cornelius Castoriadis. 2008. Mai 68—La Brèche. Suivi de Vingt ans après. Paris: Fayard. First published 1968. Nail, Thomas. 2015a. The Figure of the Migrant. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. Nail, Thomas. 2015b. “Migrant Cosmopolitanism.” Public Affairs Quarterly 29: 187–99. Naples, Nancy A., and Jennifer Bickham Mendez, eds. 2014. Border Politics: Social Movements, Collective Identities, and Globalization. New York: New York University Press. Nyers, Peter, and Kim Rygiel. 2012. Citizenship, Migrant Activism and the Politics of Movement. London: Routledge. Sager, Alex. 2018. Toward a Cosmopolitan Ethics of Mobility: The Migrant’s-Eye View of the World. Cham: Palgrave. Santer, Kiri, and Vera Wriedt. 2017. “(De-)Constructing Borders. Contestations in and Around the Balkan Corridor in 2015/16.” Movements: Journal for Critical Migration and Border Regime Studies 3, no. 1.,wriedt—deconstructing-borders.html. Scott, James C. 1990. Domination and the Arts of Resistance. Hidden Transcripts. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Shachar, Ayelet. 2020. The Shifting Border: Legal Cartographies of Migration and Mobility. Manchester: Manchester University Press Simpson, Audra. 2014. Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Stierl, Maurice. 2019. Migrant Resistance in Contemporary Europe. London: Routledge. Sullivan, Shannon, and Nancy Tuana, eds. 2007. Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. Albany: State University of New York Press. Tully, James. 2009. Public Philosophy in a New Key. Vol. II: Imperialism and Civic Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Von Randow, Gero. 2016. “Flüchtlinge: Einfach loslaufen”. DIE ZEIT, August 18. https://www /komplettansicht. Wellman, Christopher Heath, and Phillip Cole. 2011. Debating the Ethics of Immigration. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wissen, Markus, and Ulrich Brand. 2018. “Imperial Mode of Living.” Marx from the Margins: A Collective Project, from A to Z, special issue of Krisis 38, no. 2: 75–77. /imperial-mode-of-living/.

PART TWO Intellectual Engagements


6 Peace, or, the Moral Economy of War Between W. E. B. Du Bois and Sayyid Quṭb MU RAD I DR I S

CHOREOGRAPHIES OF WAR | PEACE The idealization of peace, or the idea that peace is an ultimate moral ideal and aspiration, presupposes a clear boundary between it and war. This boundary would seem necessary if peace is the termination of war, or even its elimination. But the boundary between war and peace was always less of a hard wall and more of a series of checkpoints that crisscross like a network of tunnels, with their choreography of watchtowers, guards, and fences, in which compliance, complacence, and control inflect the unpredictable tempo of silent threats, performances of vigilance about paperwork, and the possibility of being motioned to keep going. The boundary between war and peace shares the topography of a border. A border comes into being through policing, or through an order of representation, institutions, violence, and practices fused together; indeed, policing is how a border’s existence is announced and maintained. The boundary between war and peace is policed, too, in a fusion of representation and practice; as an ideology, belief in the boundary inhabits academic discourse no less than politics.1 The boundary, as a conceptual and normative division, is policed first and foremost in discourse. This policing takes on many forms, from those theories of just war that provide cover for dispossession and skew the landscape of legitimate warfare toward some political economies, forms, and histories, to the idea that “we” value peace while “they” do not; from the civilizationalist historicism that lionizes peace-loving, to the apology that peace is a universal aspiration; from the mantra that war is for the sake of peace, to the idea that peace and war have only now or in some peculiar circumstances blurred into each other.

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It is commonly acknowledged across both the history of political thought and contemporary theorizations of violence that the distinction between war and peace is nebulous. Its porousness, it is now customary to declare, indicates a crisis. But there is some disagreement about what kind of crisis this is. For example, is it a crisis because of new technologies like nuclear weapons that have made annihilation a possibility even where there is no ongoing fighting? Or is it a crisis because peace was always a ruse? Or is it a crisis that is felt differently depending on one’s location? What kind of crisis is the erasure of this boundary? This chapter focuses on the boundary between war and peace, its relationship to crisis, and the content and structure of critiques of the boundary from below. It draws on some of the ideas in my book, War for Peace, which argued that as a moral and universal ideal, “peace” across the history of political thought—from Plato to Immanuel Kant and Sayyid Quṭb—authorizes war, produces hierarchies, and sanitizes violence (Idris 2019). This chapter focuses on the diagnoses of the boundary between war and peace that two theorists of colonial modernity offer. My contention is twofold. First and most broadly, the form of the war–peace crisis is not simply one where the boundary has stopped working or eroded due to some exogenous event or structure, like nuclear weapons or the rise of the modern state. It is not reducible to an epistemic crisis, in which old concepts have not caught up with the realities of modern warfare (as if they “worked” evenly for everyone previously). Nor is it sufficient, I think, to simply embrace the more critical view that all peace is simply a coded war, an ideological mask for an ongoing war that never ended, a distraction from the structural or subterranean struggle that rages on in institutions and everyday life. Rather, what cannot be neglected is for whom the boundary between war and peace is a crisis. Attention to the question of who requires changing the view, away from an abstract, ahistorical evaluation of the boundary and beyond a highly local view of the material everydayness. The shift in view turns toward the hierarchies that the boundary produces and the locations in that hierarchy that inflect what some see, how they diagnose the violence called war and the violence called peace, and which violence is activated at the checkpoints of war and peace. Second, I argue that the American sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) and the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Quṭb (1906–1966) are two thinkers who contemporaneously theorized the production and erosion of this boundary. They did so by foregrounding the global hierarchies that the boundary produces and the hierarchies that it requires. Their theorizations are complementary but rarely thought in tandem. Indeed, the significance of bringing Du Bois and Quṭb together on war–peace has much to do with the silences of political theory as a discipline. In

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political theory and the social sciences more broadly, Du Bois and Quṭb are read for many reasons but each is almost always treated as a theorist of something other than war and peace. Furthermore, across the various ways in which each is read, Du Bois and Quṭb do not share the same considerations; by default, they are thus never put into the same conversation. Such a juxtaposition does not mean treating them as equivalent, nor does it mean treating either as a guide. On the contrary, as I indicate in the conclusion, it is in the limits or incompleteness of their theorizations of peace that the crisis is more fully brought into view. Nonetheless, the fact that the Egyptian Islamist “philosopher of jihad” and the Black American sociologist of race might speak outside the confines of contemporary scripts of Islamic terror and American exceptionalism suggests the significance of treating their diagnoses in tandem. Methodologically, this means resisting the tendency to insulate a thinker’s domestic and national contexts from the global and transnational structures they theorized and navigated. As Roxanne Euben noted twenty years ago in her germinal Enemy in the Mirror, accounts that reduce Quṭb’s thought to “the purely local dimensions” of Egyptian politics miss his theoretical interventions (Euben 1999, 155). Indeed, they also miss Quṭb’s transnational and colonial thought, or his theorization of war, peace, empire, and knowledge production (Idris 2019). The same, too, should be said of parochial accounts that limit Quṭb’s thought to a free-floating “global Islam” defined by jihad and caliphate. Likewise, a number of political theorists have challenged the disciplinary tendencies to exclude Du Bois from theorizations of the international and to give precedence to the United States as the whole universe of Du Bois’s political thought; as these scholars demonstrate, Du Bois’s theorizations of a global color line, interregional politics, world war, international institutions, colonialism, and capitalism are neither confined to the final chapter of his life nor do they represent an appendix or afterthought that merely extends his domestic critiques to the globe (Vitalis 2015; Getachew 2019; Valdez 2019; Getachew and Pitts, forthcoming). The global and the domestic are fused; Quṭb and Du Bois theorize and resignify key concepts in political theory on both sides of that border. And they write, so to speak, from either side of the border of America, as the others of an American empire, one as a minoritized, racialized citizen and the other as a colonized, “radicalized” foreigner. They write from the vantage point of a subject against whom peace as an ideal is elaborated—a subject for whom the boundary had been erected to look like a solid wall but was always a checkpoint. Du Bois and Quṭb both draw attention to how the practices and institutions of peace actually enable war. On the one hand, they show how the prevailing

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discourses and structures of peace—what each describes as a colonial, racialized, capitalist peace—facilitates violence, subjugation, and war, domestically and internationally. Both suggest that this exclusive peace requires war. Such “war” takes on various forms, from colonial occupation to domestic dispossession to routinized state-sanctioned violence to the discourses that normalize the hierarchies of lives and facilitate future conquest, exploitation, and subjugation. In this structure, discourses of peace by colonial powers work to conceal and moralize the war. The nonexistence of a clear boundary between war and peace is thus politically productive: it refers to a hierarchy that distributes violence and legitimacy asymmetrically between people and places marked as the subjects of peace and others marked as sites of pacification. But on the other hand, both Quṭb and Du Bois ponder a future peace and treat peace as a moral and political ideal. Quṭb’s is a peace guaranteed by a new Islamic bloc of reformed states and Islamic principles; Du Bois’s is a union of American minorities, Asia, and Africa that aims for cohesion, understanding, and economic improvement. Both expect that this new force of peace might stand in the way of colonial powers. With these diagnoses, at the end, both treat the dominant idioms of peace by America and Europe as a kind of irony, deception, or hypocrisy. The result is that neither Du Bois nor Quṭb asks whether the idealization of peace itself might be a part of the problem. Nonetheless, they point toward understanding that the moral economy of peace is embedded in the political economy of war.

A PEACEFUL CRISIS For some, the distinction between war and peace is itself in crisis: contemporary formations of violence transcend any neat distinction between the two concepts. This view has not lacked the support of prominent philosophers. Martin Heidegger wrote in 1954: “Changed into their deformation of essence, ‘war’ and ‘peace’ . . . have become unrecognizable with regard to any distinction. The question of when there will be peace cannot be answered not because the duration of war is unfathomable, but rather because the question already asks about something which no longer exists, since war is no longer anything which could terminate in peace” (Heidegger 1973, 104). Even though Hannah Arendt thinks that peace is “an absolute” and an end in itself, she, too, found that weapons of mass destruction and guerilla warfare indicate the displacement of peace from the world (Arendt 1970, 9–10, 51). Carl Schmitt observed this blurring in the twentieth century in the

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1963 foreword of his classic text, The Concept of the Political: “It is no wonder that the old English word ‘foe’ has reawakened from its four-hundred-year slumber to be used frequently next to ‘enemy’ in the past two decades. How would it be possible, in an age that produces nuclear means of annihilation and at the same time blurs the distinction between war and peace, to maintain a reflection about the distinction between friend and enemy?” (Schmitt 1979, 19). Today, claims about a war in times of peace, war that is not war, and peace that is not peaceful can only appear as scripted truisms; they reflect an exceptionalism that treats the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as the exclusive sites of dynamism and transformation. For others, the distinction between war and peace is what produces crisis: “war” and “peace” are ideological formations that redescribe some violence as peace and some wars as illegitimate violence. This view is best summarized by Tacitus’s often-quoted line, “Where they make a desert, they call it peace” (Tacitus 1999, §30). As David Armitage notes, “The stakes are now so high for applying or withholding the label ‘civil war’ it is unlikely that politics can ever be eliminated from consideration”; the term has “legal implications that can trigger” a host of actions internationally and domestically (Armitage 2017, 231). Northern Ireland, Algeria, and Palestine vividly illuminate the politics surrounding what is designated as war, peace, or something else, thereby mobilizing citizens, delegitimizing enemies, withholding rights to civilians or combatants, and producing further series of crises on the ground (see, e.g., Feldman 1991; Lustick 1993). Critical genealogies of war’s legal and conceptual apparatus only corroborate that its distinctions and elaborations were useful weapons. This view, that “war” and “peace” are ideological formations that produce crises, can emerge out of a “realism” that sees conflict as omnipresent, as in Max Weber’s definition: “ ‘Peace’ is nothing more than a change in the form of the conflict or in the antagonists or in the objects of the conflict” (Weber 1949, 27). It also emerges in Foucault’s more critical idea: “Peace would then be a form of war, and the state a means of waging it” (Foucault 1984, 64–65). The core of this view is seeing the politics surrounding whose violence is designated as “war,” who is not allowed to wage war (only rebellion, piracy, or terrorism), whose killings are invisible and acceptable for the general order of “peace,” or which acts can retrospectively indicate that there was already a war taking place (see Douzinas 2000, 2007; Chinkin and Kaldor 2017; Zolo 2002, 2009). The two views of crisis in relation to war and peace are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are held together by a third dimension of crisis. The first—there is a crisis of war and peace—and the second—there are crises by war and peace—come

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together in the recognition that the crises are not uniformly and universally distributed. For the former, the crisis is something more or less recent; some external transformations place people today in this crisis. For the latter, the coded or undeclared war is not equally waged against each person or group, which is why it goes unnamed or unnoticed. For whom does this crisis and its various versions exist? Did it exist for some in particular, prior to its generalization? If the distinction produces crises, for which populations and on which places? The stratified, asymmetrical formation of war–peace and its crises often tracks the colonial and racial distribution of unequal “humanity,” or the uneven valuation of life. The critique of the crisis, in other words, begins in the first place by pointing to the production of a below—a below that does not precede the structures of crisis, but is their product and production. In order to better apprehend how these kinds of critiques reentrench the crisis of the peace–war boundary, I turn to Du Bois and Quṭb as theorists of the below-ness of the crisis. When I write that their critiques are “from below,” I mean to draw attention to three aspects. First, as indicated above, their critiques theorize the production of the below. Each is attuned to the global hierarchies that belong to the specific form of the war–peace crisis in a world defined by colonial relations and the racialization of difference. Second, and most obviously, both Du Bois and Quṭb occupy a minority position in contemporary formations of knowledge. They reflect two different kinds of political marginalization, which are further reflected in the marginalization of the bodies of thought that they metonymize—Black political thought and Islamic political thought—in ways that map on to the war/peace binary: Quṭb as a new form of violence that does not add up to conventional “war,” and Du Bois as a peace activism that is too idealistic. Each, in other words, stands only partly in the conventions of contemporary canonization and Eurocentric curricula. Their racialized figurations reflect the global stratification of lives. Although both, as intellectuals, are not subaltern and have, in fact, a variety of elitist currents running through their work, they are nonetheless “below” in the global and domestic structures that exclude and marginalize them. Finally, their critiques are from below in that they point to the structural, subterranean ways below the dominant, unmarked logics (e.g., official state discourse, moral philosophy) in which the crisis takes root. In crucial ways, Du Bois and Quṭb are ideologically, intellectually, and politically incommensurable. Du Bois, a noted sociologist and historian, foregrounded “the color line” as the fundamental question of the day domestically

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and internationally. For him, colonialism masqueraded as peace: it fueled colonial wars across the globe and sustained the global peace of European and American empires. His critiques of how peace is invoked by the majority white population draws further attention to the work that the boundary between war and peace performs. Meanwhile, Sayyid Quṭb is commonly considered a founder of “Islamic radicalism.” He is best known for his later writings during his imprisonment by the Egyptian state. In the period prior, and on which I focus here, he theorized the links between colonial peace and imperial war. Through a close reading of their writings on war and peace, the next sections indicate how they present the boundary, its erosion, and the ideological functions of those who insist on it in relation to capitalism, whiteness, and empire. Du Bois and Quṭb, in this fashion, offer the beginnings of a critique of the two conventional positions in the social sciences about war and peace: the normalization of war and the moralization of peace. The first position, the normalization of war, insists that the problem today (or at different moments) is that peacetime does not have enough peace in it; it has too much of the stuff of war, and the implied solution is to bring peace. The other position, the moralization of peace, offers an ameliorative and partial critique of war by claiming to have found the criteria to justify some violence and to condemn others. In some cases, this means following Immanuel Kant in distinguishing between productive and unproductive wars (see Idris 2019, 260–313). Twentieth-century just war theory is another exemplar of this moralization, with its elaborate but tacit architecture surrounding intentions, motives, political economy, history, and questions of who can wage such wars (Walzer 2015, 327). In both positions, peace is an ideal, one whose name becomes a critique of war or one that provides moral cover for violence and is only its alleged outcome. Both positions fail to see that at stake is not how to separate war and peace, to wit, not how to purify, sanitize, and moralize them. The crisis runs along the boundary. Both positions, the peace-loving condemnation of war or the peace-aspiring amelioration of war, insist on peace and its integrity in relation to war. Both keep out of view the economy of morals that elevates peace into the most fundamental human desire. To adapt Nietzsche, what good is it—what purpose does this morality serve—to insist on peace and to wage war nonetheless? What good is it to insist on peace when it is what justifies, authorizes, and sanitizes war? (Nietzsche 1968, 193). What is the economy of morals for which the boundary between war and peace is moralized, or in which it can authorize, sanitize, and disavow? Such a reorientation would require beginning with the boundary as itself the problem and as an effect. It would mean moving beyond the way that

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the erosion of the boundary is overdetermined; if the distinction between war and peace fails in so many contexts—colonies, nuclear weapons, guerilla warfare, systemic violence that resembles an undeclared war, etc.—this should say something about the distinction, not just those contexts. Beyond the desire to announce twentieth- and twenty-first-century exceptions to the opposition between war and peace, these transformations should invite a different orientation toward the boundary more broadly. The line of the boundary does not separate the structure of ideals from the institutionalization of violence. It braids them together, so that the moral economy of loving peace is embedded in the political economy of waging war.

DU BOIS: THE LINE THAT TRACES WAR Although Du Bois was a committed antiwar activist, often called for peace among all people, and sometimes described the use of force or violence as a failure, these more programmatic statements about Du Bois efface his theorization of war, peace, and the boundary between them. This section recovers Du Bois’s theorization of how colonialism and race inflect the boundary between war and peace. European peace is predicated on colonialism, colonialism produces war between colonial powers, and eventually, the colonized rise up against their colonizers.2 Du Bois affirms a kind of peace that is against colonialism, based on interracial solidarity and the undoing of white supremacy, and that anticipates war against Europe and the United States. In “The African Roots of War” (1915), Du Bois reverses discourses about the location of war and progress. Contemporaneous discourses presented Africa as man’s origin and the enduring site of primitive violence: it was in Africa that the “naturalness” of war became an apologia for colonial management. Du Bois’s piece makes a move that he would repeat many times over the course of his life. He locates the “roots of war” in Africa in a different way. The cause of World War I and of modern war generally, he argues, is in the competition between colonial powers over African territory and resources. He thus shifts the explanation, origins, actors, and structures of war. In this early article, Du Bois highlights two interlaced dynamics. The first is the contradiction in the talk of peace by the colonial powers, for it “degenerat[es] into murder, mutilation, and downright robbery” (Du Bois 1915, §8). At the same time, the various so-called peace societies and the peace movement during this time, he reports, refused to address racial prejudice and colonial warfare as causes

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of war because this would be to take up “controversial matters” (Du Bois 1915, §29). As he put it more directly a couple of years later, I was disgusted with Pacifists long before their present prominence. Today they think war a horrible thing, but yesterday, when war was confined to the Belgian Congo, to the headwaters of the Amazon, to South Africa and parts of India and the South Seas it was not war, it was simply a method of carrying civilization on to the natives, and there were no national conventions on the subject. In the peace proposals that are now being made continually, the future of the natives of Africa, the future of the disfranchised Indians of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, and the disfranchisement of the Negroes in the United States has not only no important part but practically no thought. What you are asking for is a peace among white folk with the inevitable result that they will have more leisure and inclination to continue their despoiling of yellow, red, brown and black folk. Revolution is discussed, but it is the successful revolution of white folk and not the unsuccessful revolution of black soldiers in Texas. (Du Bois 1917–1918, 2:119)

The call of peace, then, reflected—and provided moral cover for—dispossession and racial hierarchical valuation, describing political violence and aspirations in a moralized grammar that distinguished between its white and its nonwhite lives. The second dynamic is the link between foreign policy or violence abroad and domestic policy or exclusions within. Du Bois notes, “By threatening to send English capital to China and Mexico, by threatening to hire Negro laborers in America, as well as by old-age pensions and accident insurance, we gain industrial peace at home at the mightier cost of war abroad” (Du Bois 1915, §25). If only European peace were secured, he repeats, the horrors of war would be “inevitable” because “the real causes of present European fighting are to be found” in “this outer circle of races” (Du Bois 1915, §39). European concord or peace, he argues, “will mean satisfaction with, or acquiescence in, a given division of the spoils of world-dominion. After all, European disarmament cannot go below the necessity of defending the aggressions of the whites against the blacks and browns and yellows.” He enumerates three potential causes of war. The first is jealousy over colonies, spheres of influence, and “golden feasts” at the expense of the colonized world. The second is the revolt of workers: “The greater the international jealousies, the greater the corresponding costs of armament and the more difficult to fulfill the promises of industrial democracy in

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advanced countries.” The third is that the colonized peoples will revolt in the name of freedom and self-determination. He thus writes, “Then they are going to fight and the War of the Color Line will outdo in savage inhumanity any war this world has yet seen. For colored folk have much to remember and they will not forget” (Du Bois 1915, §38). Five years later, in Darkwater (1920), Du Bois repeats, “Let me say this again and emphasize it and leave no room for mistaken meaning: The World War was primarily the jealous and avaricious struggle for the largest share in exploiting darker races” (Du Bois 1920, 49). The First World War, he continues, cannot be the war to end all war “so long as sits enthroned, even in the souls of those who cry peace, the despising and robbing of darker peoples. If Europe hugs this delusion,  .  .  . then this is not the end of world war, it is but the beginning!” (Du Bois 1920, 49–50). In similar fashion, America sees itself as a “natural peacemaker” and “moral protagonist” when it is a purveyor of “human hatred” and racism (Du Bois 1920, 50). Du Bois charges Europe and the United States with hypocrisy: they used the language of peace but engaged in the opposite. He warns that the colonized world would rise up in the most fearsome war against its colonizers, who sought peace for themselves by colonizing the rest. He also observes that colonial governance kept colonies from “progress.” When he surveys forms of indirect rule in Africa, Du Bois observes that “in Tanganyika and Uganda, there have been different degrees of the celebrated British ‘indirect’ rule, namely the method of supporting in power such native rulers as pursue policies favorable to the ruling whites. This method preserves native customs, but stifles reform and keeps education at a minimum. It brings peace, but usually peace without progress. This is the case in Tanganyika; but in Uganda, where there was considerable native culture before annexation, native development may break its bonds and go forward” (Du Bois 1935, 3:21). He identifies three paths forward for the “suppressed people of today”: humiliation; war;—or, if “colored peoples are strong and prepared,” then the “children of India, Africa, and Negro America” might “find a third path—a path that will not necessarily range the forces of the world into ‘two camps, sullen, suspicious and menacing,’ but which will aim at inner cohesion and understanding among the colored peoples, and especially organization designed to meet and solve their pressing economic problems” (Du Bois 1936, 3:46). He argues for rearranging consumption and production in line with practices of disobedience in Gandhi’s India and Toyohiko Kagawa’s Japan, to “stop the dependence of colored consumers upon white exploitation; that we can establish new ideals of mutual respect which shall not be exclusively and

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continually white ideals” (Du Bois 1936, 3:46). Du Bois’s third path is not “peace,” but a global interracial solidarity that confronts white supremacy and might eliminate racialized suppression and colonial violence. He explains: I cannot see that this path must necessarily lead to war unless the white world openly and flatly insists that any organization of colored folk for the advance of colored folk is a menace to white people; and in that case, a war of races and of colors is absolutely inevitable; and not inevitable because I and others have raised the flag of warning, but simply because of the impossible attitude of the European and American world. On the other hand, it is just as possible that when through inner organization and developed strength the colored worlds grow in power and efficiency, they will strengthen the liberal thought of the white world; help to abolish war and armament, and make all reasonable men among the white nations come to their senses, and come to their senses all the more quickly when they see the inevitable cost of a continued policy of forcible suppression. (Du Bois 1936, 3:46)

This other path, we will see, has resonances in Quṭb’s thinking about an Islamic federation. During World War II, Du Bois repeated the diagnosis of peace and war to highlight the continuity between the two world wars and the global order of their horizons. In both wars, peace between European powers was predicated on violence in colonies: the peace of Europeans ruling over Africa and competing over Africa produced violence in Europe and in Africa: The memorable phrase of the First World War, the German demand for “a place in the sun,” meant that Germany demanded metals, vegetable oils, fibres and foods from Africa on equal terms with England, either by pooling or preferably by dividing up Africa’s land, labor and resources afresh. To return to such a plan after a generation of indecision, after another ghastly war, and in a period bursting with the components of still another and vaster war, would be blindness indeed. Yet this is precisely what many have in mind. If the rivalry of dominant European nations for colonial profit can be composed by a more equitable distribution of raw materials and labor, they say, then peace will be assured in the world. When they say nothing about the aspirations of the peoples of Africa themselves, what they are actually saying is that peace will be assured if we will all merely return to the eighteenth century. (Du Bois 1943, 3:176)

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As he put it the next year, in “Imperialism, United Nations, Colonial People” (1944), the outcome of this peace is not peace and security, but exploitation and rivalry that will be followed by colonial revolt (Du Bois 1944, 3:227). In this analysis, peace is dependent on war, peace produces war, and at the core of this entanglement is a racialized hierarchy. Thirty years after “The African Roots of War,” Du Bois published Color and Democracy: Peace and Colonies (1945). He extended his diagnosis to the post–World War II order. He repeated his indictment of “pacifism designed ‘for white people only’ ” (Du Bois 1945, 103), or “pacifists [who] were willing to ignore the fact that the peace of Europe was maintained only by a series of colonial wars which lasted almost continuously from the last half of the nineteenth century to the present, and subdued most of the peoples of the world to partial or complete subserviency to imperial powers,” including in the Balkans (Du Bois 1945, 110). He argued that “world peace” is predicated on racial domination, the extraction of resources and labor, and a rivalry for power that creates war both among imperial powers and within colonies. When Du Bois listed all wars from 1792 to 1939—a total of 127 wars of varying duration but with not a single year of peace—he categorized them as one of six kinds of war, namely, wars over rivalry for colonies, spheres of influence, colonial conquest, internal-group conquest, colonial revolt, or strife within colonies (Du Bois 1945, 103–7). His list of “wars” thus included examples that others called uprisings, rebellions, or pacification. (That colonialism inscribes every single war for nearly 150 years is not something one would surmise from other typologies of war, including, for example, John Rawls’s attempt twenty-five years later to divide war into nine types; see Idris 2021.) Du Bois wrote, “Any refusal to face this problem, to evade the problem of colonies, to forget injustice to minorities, to deny the rising struggle between economic classes, and above all to deal frankly and openly with the question of private profit and government control in industry—this is to make impossible a solution of the problem of world peace. But imperialism does not stop there; it not only promotes civil war, strife, and jealousy within the colony, but it is, as we have seen, a main cause of struggles between powers to possess colonies. Thus colonialism separates peoples and workers” (Du Bois 1945, 112). All this represents an important continuity in Du Bois’s thought: practices of a European “peace” were predicated on violence in the colonies, and colonialism could only end with violence, first between European powers and then of colonies against colonizers: “The vaunted ‘hundred years of peace,’ from Waterloo to the Battle of the Marne, was not peace at all but war, of Europe and North America on Africa and Asia, with only troubled bits of peace between

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the colonial conquerors” (Du Bois 1957, 4:287). If production in colonies was no longer for the sake of a competition between colonial powers, then freedom for Asians, Africans, West Indians, and Central and South Americans would result in world peace and economic redistribution (Du Bois 1956, 4:255). During this later period of intellectual production, Du Bois reaffirmed that the color line is also the line that demarcates war across the globe. The wars of colonialism often claimed Christianity and the education of the non-European as their reason; it is in relation to this function of missionaries and Euro-American hypocrisy that Du Bois’s message to the Bandung Conference concluded, “Let the white world keep its missionaries at home to teach the Golden Rule to its corporate thieves. Damn the God of Slavery, exploitation and war. Peace on earth; no more war. The earth of Africa is for its people. Its wealth is for the poor and not for the rich” (Du Bois 1955, 4:237). During this later period, peace stood more prominently as an ideal in Du Bois’s writings. He maintained peace and war as absolute moralized opposites in such slogans as “Peace; no more War” and “Insist on Peace now, Peace forever.” He argued that a commitment to peace would remedy the American war industry and the Korean War. He called for politicians to show their “desire for peace” (Du Bois 1949b, 4:123; 1950, 4:156; 1953). He took the United States to task for spoiling the “dream of peace” by withholding nuclear science and seeking global domination; sharing that knowledge “would have been a gesture toward peace which would have convinced mankind of our real desire for a free world and for true democracy, and our abhorrence of imperial exploitation” (Du Bois 1952b, 4:184). Four years after the diagnosis of Color and Democracy: Peace and Colonies, in “Peace: Freedom’s Road for Oppressed Peoples,” Du Bois recalled his earlier critiques of the global racial hierarchies built into the colonial structure of international order, including in the League of Nations (and then in the United Nations), but he made more explicit his moral idealization of peace. He concluded: “Peace is not an end. It is the gateway to real civilization. With peace all things may be added. With war, we destroy even that which the toil and sacrifice of ages have built” (Du Bois 1949a, 4:116). He echoed this argument, of peace as progress and war as destruction, three years later. All radical and revolutionary change, he noted, can involve violence, but the violence comes not from reformers or progress, but from their opponents. “Reform” thus figures as an absolute good, of which Protestantism, democracy, colonial autonomy, and woman’s suffrage are all examples, with communism as a similar force of progress that has faced violent resistance. Instead of embracing the much-needed “progress [that]

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depends on peace,” the United States’s economy is oriented toward “waste and war” (Du Bois 1952a, 4:180).3 Du Bois’s theorizations of the boundary between war and peace took on three forms. The first is skepticism about white appeals to peace with actions that did not go far enough in confronting the causes of war or that facilitated its violence. The second is pointing to how “the color line” dynamically tracks, but also turns inside out, the boundary between war and peace. The third is an immanent critique of peace, observing that peace for whites perpetuates violence and what is needed is “peace and progress” for all “humanity,” which would begin with the emancipatory reorganization of colonies, minorities, and workers.

QUṬB: THE WAR DRUMS OF PEACE Sayyid Quṭb visited the United States (1948–1950) as an Egyptian cultural critic and educator.4 During this visit and immediately after, he discussed the structuring role of race in the ideological battle waged by communism and capitalism against Muslims. In that last sense, it can be said that, like Du Bois, Quṭb was a theorist of empire, colonial capitalism, and the violence that they enable. The discussion in this section represents a break from the dominant scholarly modes of examining Quṭb’s writings. It moves away from the exceptionalizing frames that selectively erase Quṭb’s critiques or absorb his thought into a scripturalist theology that determines geopolitics; such scholarship reentrenches the quarantine of Islamic and Islamist critique away from other currents of critique. By recovering Quṭb’s thought about capitalism, colonialism, race, and the politics of American knowledge production, this brief discussion points to the ideological structure of scholarly discourse and toward a diagnosis of critique today. For Du Bois, the Korean War put the American war industry on full display; for Quṭb, this same war, which began at the end of his time in America, exposed a culture of war and a national drive for conquest. For both, the Korean War was about colonial violence and thus illuminated the boundary between war and peace. In his articles on his time in America, Quṭb argued that America invokes peace but is indelibly fused to war. The Korean War exemplifies this. “I do not know,” he offered, “how that strange delusion circulated across the world, especially in the East, the delusion that the American people love peace!” From popular culture to politics to their history, Americans are obsessed with fighting; he thus narrates American history as one of colonial settlement, factionalism, the elimination of the native, conquest and expansion, slavery and subjugation, two

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world wars, and “now here it is trotting to war in Korea, and a Third World War is not far behind! I do not know how the strange delusion circulated about a people whose history of wars is thus.” Just as Du Bois locates the problem of America as the tethering of white freedom to black humiliation and subjugation, Quṭb identifies America’s origins and continued existence in the knotting of American freedom with the drive to conquer and subjugate. It manifests in the disjuncture between the language of peace and the realities of war, or a language of peace that covers up a founding based on dispossession and the extermination of the native followed by racialized wars (Quṭb 1951a, 1301–302). In a neglected text from 1951 titled Universal Peace and Islam, Quṭb writes, The war drums are beating. There it is, a prospect knocking on the ears of humanity’s wretched. I heard it before in America even before the outbreak of the Korean War. Everyone who lived in America during the last two years has realized with clarity that America will wage war. Everything spoke, or revealed, this truth. . . . Anyone who followed American journalism, as well as other propaganda apparatuses such as radio and cinema—and even in universities and colleges—realized with clarity that this is a nation preparing to wage war—war in the near future—and that it is packing public opinion [with this idea] and preparing it fully, completely, comprehensively; unless it is expending all these efforts with total stupidity, then war is certain, and soon. (Quṭb 1951c, 157–58)

Europe would have long joined the United States in this campaign for war, but it is still rebuilding: “the lure of the dollar has been able to make anything happen in Europe, except for pulling it into World War III. For this reason alone America is patient. But the heads of American capital are in dire need of a new war. That is the issue” (Quṭb 1951c, 158). Scientific experiments, American production, and resource extraction all benefited from the war economy; meanwhile, although there was no European competition after the war, consumption was failing, and so Europe was rebuilt. Quṭb locates the Marshall Plan as an extension of the interlocking of capitalism and war: it created a market for American exports, created American jobs after the war, and propped up Europe against communism (Quṭb 1951c, 159–60). As Europe returns to producing and exporting, the rest of the globe exists for consumption and import. Like Du Bois, Quṭb highlights the continuities: the postwar competition between the United States and Europe mirrors what previously led to global unrest and world war (Quṭb 1951c, 160–61). Against East Asia,

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he writes, America can wage “a total war” that incorporates its entire workforce and guarantees profit: “in relation to America today, war is necessary for national life” (Quṭb 1951c, 162). Although Europe hesitates now, its capitalist structure will propel it into war as well. Between capitalism’s perpetuation of inequality and communism fueling the anger of the lower classes, the East is the object of their greed (Quṭb 1951c, 163). The battle between capitalism and communism is a battle over markets. In this battle, weapons and instruments of destruction must be produced, and their production keeps factories operating “to deliver direct profit to capitalists and death to millions.” European restraints on America are only “temporary factors for peace” rather than any real assurance. And thus the interests of capitalists drive mankind to massacres, “no matter how much their propaganda waves around the names of ethical principles and humanitarian goals” (Quṭb 1951c, 163). Quṭb’s 1953 essay, “Principles of the Free World!” captures well the sentiment that peace, freedom, and other ideals serve as cover for violence and war: “ ‘The free world’ is the name colonizers in England, France, and America give the colonialist bloc as it wages a war against time, fights against humanity, and struggles against freedom. And then it calls itself ‘the free world’!” Across the globe, the free world “rips apart the skin of ‘freedom,’ ” and it “strangles ‘free people’ everywhere.” The “free world’s goal is that it be free to kill freedom as it pleases” as it sets it gaze on “the dark continent” and “backward peoples” (Quṭb 1953, 14). For Qutb, the problem of knowledge and historical narration is that it is an arena in the war that imperial powers wage. All nonwhite people are taught to measure themselves in relation to “the white man” and his history, and to denigrate their own histories. It is no coincidence that people in America talk about “ ‘the white man’ as though they are talking about a half-god,” and “ ‘people of color’ like Egyptians and Arabs generally as though they are describing a half-human.” Imperialism dominates not with “iron and fire,” but with “the men whose souls and minds it has colonized,” with control over cultural and educational institutions, with newspapers, books, and by “writing about the glories of France, Britain, and America” to humiliate others (Quṭb 1952a, 1217–19). In February of 1951, the same year that Qutb published Universal Peace and Islam, he also published The Battle of Islam and Capitalism (Quṭb 1951b). He argues that capitalism and colonialism are intimately connected. In his analysis of capitalism, he describes the exportation of violence to the colonies and the sanctioning of violence domestically as part and parcel of its operations. “The Western front, which comprises capitalist America, socialist England, and I-don’t-knowwhat-it-is France,” he writes, “enslaves us and humiliates us. The only place it has

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for us is that of lackeys and slaves. Any thought of joining it grows out of the shared interests between exploitative capitalism and the colonialism that protects it” (Quṭb 1951b, 36–37). The colonial powers compete for rule and influence, as in Tunis, Algiers, Marrakesh, and Egypt, “killing and burning, torturing and maiming, stealing and plundering, committing in the Arab Maghreb the kinds of transgressions that the Mongols and Crusaders had committed” (Quṭb 1951b, 39–40). Even at the level of economy, the capitalist structure of colonial governance fails: it forecloses opportunities, relies on rent seeking, promotes the unequal distribution of wealth and resources, and weakens production (Quṭb 1951b, 45–69). In Quṭb’s analysis, capitalism, colonialism, and crusading are layers in the same structure, belonging to the same genealogy of violence and dispossession in which peace and freedom are a mask. He devotes a chapter of The Battle of Islam and Capitalism to the different enemies of Islamic rule. The first is the crusaders, which Quṭb analyzes as an ongoing structure. For the crusaders, he posits, “the defense of Christianity” refers to Christianity not as a religion or creed but as a collection of countries and nations in which the religion operates only as cover. Thus there is no contradiction between European and American avowals of Christianity and their antagonism and enmity toward other countries (Quṭb 1951b, 120). The conquest of Palestine, he explains, is a continuation of this structure. Crusading does not only exist through acts of violence: Europe and the United States invest in missionary activity across the world, with native accomplices, aided by the economic interests of governments. These apparently “peaceful” activities are maneuvers of the war. It is thus no coincidence that the crusader spirit objects to the rule of Islam and utilizes its media to sow dissent and division between Muslims and non-Muslims (Quṭb 1951b, 121–25). According to Quṭb, it is difficult to disentangle the enmity of the crusades and the enmity of colonizers: “each nourishes the other; they support and justify each other” (Quṭb 1951b, 126). Orientalist activity, too, is a basic part of the effort against Muslims: it destroys the seeds of resistance, thereby facilitating the colonial enterprise and allowing it to extend its roots. It is the “colonization of consciousness and intellect” that makes colonialism in other spheres possible and durable; in fact, he argues, colonialism can thus continue even after the colonizer has departed, through a form of internalized colonialism without colonists (Quṭb 1951b, 127–129). If missionary activity works in the realm of faith, orientalism works in the domain of knowledge and science. Dictatorship and the despotism or autocracy of capital are in a “natural alliance” with colonialism. Islam thus figures in Quṭb’s analysis both as a locus of resistance and as the possibility

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of restoring justice: “it would neutralize rule by dictatorship and the authoritarianism of capital,” because self-determination would take power away from the colonized elites that keep colonial structures in place. These elites function as the managerial class of colonial rule and violence (Quṭb 1951b, 130–31). If Du Bois identified “peace among white folk” as a hierarchical structure that depends on, normalizes, and conceals violence directed at others, Quṭb points to a parallel structure: “Every freedom and social justice that the colonizers enjoy in their countries, they deny the colonized and regions of influence” (Quṭb 1951b, 131). And just as Du Bois said the result might be a war against white supremacy, Quṭb expects that these colonies “will confront the colonizers head on to end colonialism’s social injustices,” along with those inside the colonies who have taken advantage of colonialism for their personal gain (Qutb 1951b, 131). Quṭb outlines the rearrangement of the world as the new horizon of peace and war in Universal Peace and Islam. Having argued that America speaks the language of peace to perpetuate war, Quṭb identifies his alternative: a bloc of Muslim states. Such a bloc would stand against communism and capitalism and act as the surest guarantee for peace and dignity. He calls for the reform of Muslim-majority states and the formation of a Muslim bloc. This bloc would intervene in all contexts of oppression across the globe and prevent any colonial injustice in the world (Quṭb 1951c, 176–77; see Idris 2019, 298–306). This alternative—the economic, military, diplomatic, cultural, and social integration of Muslim states rising up against colonialism to police the globe—grows directly out of his diagnosis of the erosion of the boundary between war and peace in colonial capitalism. Islam is superior for attaining peace, he explains, because it “does not engage in the criminal debauchery that is Western colonialism, nor does it exterminate its followers like irreligious, unbelieving Communism. It is the only universal system under which all races and beliefs can live, beneath its shade, in security and peace” (Quṭb 1952b, 183). Du Bois had argued for the need to find a “third path” beyond war and beyond humiliation toward unity, cooperation, and defense; Quṭb’s bloc rejects both capitalism and communism for a third path of Muslim cohesion and intervention. Both paths imagine a political and moral union—one between India, Africa, and Black America, the other between the Muslim-majority states in Africa and Asia— that stands up to colonial exploitation. For both, the union is a force of peace and power, one that would react to prevent exploitation by the white world (Du Bois) or by the communist and capitalist blocs (Quṭb). The political union that each imagines calls attention to the falsity of the rhetoric of peace employed by the exploitative powers; the union serves as a warning of war and a promise of peace.

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BETWEEN DU BOIS AND QUṬB Du Bois and Quṭb diagnose peace, war, and their boundary in ways that go beyond the normalization of war and the moralization of peace. The problem is not simply that peace looks too much like war or that violence needs to be better rationalized or legitimated. Different as Du Bois and Quṭb are, each considers how the crisis of war and peace is distributed unevenly under global colonial capitalism. Their critiques are from below, or from a vantage point that lays bare the hierarchies that the crisis of the boundary installs. Each turns toward a critique of the boundary between war and peace, not just a critique of war or a call for peace. They describe American and European invocations of peace as hypocritical, and they focus on the productivity of this hypocrisy for war. They thus analyze the erosion of the boundary between war and peace. The erosion does not refer to “war” as a metaphor for all social relations, but as a material and discursive structure that can only yield numerous wars and acts of violence, in the name of peace and, at times, as the image of peace. The juxtaposition of Quṭb and Du Bois can be potentially as important as reading each as a theorist of war and peace. The idea of Quṭb as a radical Islamist narrowly concerned with overthrowing the state or reestablishing an Islamic caliphate is incomplete (and never mind the interests that this discourse serves). It effaces his diagnosis of geopolitics, capitalism, race, and colonialism; it replaces a critical discourse about power with a liberal sensibility about belief and normativity. It erases Quṭb’s other radicalism. Indeed, the work that the adjective “radical” performs depending on the person it names is visible today in the contrast between Quṭb’s and Du Bois’s respective “radicalism.” Du Bois, after all, is the critical theorist of racialization in America and colonialism in the world, and his radicalism is in challenging these as structures that run long and deep in global and domestic orders. Something akin to this radicalism, I have argued, informs Quṭb’s critiques of capitalism, colonialism, and knowledge production in his pre-prison writings, particularly in his observations that these are braided in a structure that demands and legitimates Euro-American racialized warfare. At the same time, the idea of Du Bois’s radicalism as simply that of an antiwar peace activist is incomplete. It is true that in his increased political activity with the Peace Information Center in the face of the looming prospects of nuclear annihilation and with violent decolonization on the horizon, Du Bois came to more forcefully champion the rhetoric of peace. But his critiques of war–peace—how peace depends on war, how its material structures facilitate

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war, how its invocations enable war—are much more than a criticism that war is immoral or destructive, even if he maintains the idea of a better peace as the unproblematic solution. Quṭb’s discussions, in similar fashion, go far beyond the idea that secular peace is not real peace because it is godless. Both diagnose the violence in peace. For both, the crisis runs along the boundary: in the zones that the boundary creates, the racial hierarchies it produces, and the forms of violence, extraction, and competition that trace their way through peace and war. Part of their shared radicalism is in shifting attention toward that boundary as the site of crisis. At crucial points in their analyses, I have argued, both Quṭb and Du Bois champion an anticolonial war for the sake of peace. This war requires a global rearrangement of power, with the formation of a new bloc or a new union. In so doing, rather than move beyond the boundary between war and peace, each insists on peace as a moral ideal and aspiration. They thus maintain the boundary, even as each points to its problems and to the politics of who invokes peace, what gets called war, and how peace lends itself to war. In remaining champions of peace and critics of war, they do not inquire into how the boundary structures discourse and morals. Nonetheless, their critiques of the colonial discourse of peace, its embeddedness in the political economy of colonial powers and its functions in relation to war, pave the ground for a different critique, one that is anticolonial but does not make the colony an exceptional site for the boundary between war and peace, one that does not idealize peace as the solution yet again. This is the critique—indeed, the crisis: that the moral economy of peace as an ideal is embedded in a political economy of war. It is the unsettling possibility that peace has always been the moral economy of war, or that the idealization of peace as an ultimate ideal depends on, emerges from, and serves to reentrench political arrangements that revolve around war and that it deflects the urgency of other ideals and actions. NOTES 1. Scholarship that insists on separating war and peace and on banishing all violence from peace is common. I have sometimes found when discussing my book, War for Peace, that even those theorists whose research might compel them to become attuned to questions of power, race, marginalization, violence, and discourse nonetheless can fail to examine their impulse to idealize peace and move beyond the mantra of liberal ideology, “give peace a chance.” 2. Du Bois’s international political thought and his related articles are collected in four volumes from the series The Complete Published Works of W. E. B. Du Bois. All citations and references

Peace, or, the Moral Economy of War 143  to Du Bois’s articles are taken from four volumes in this series; see Du Bois 1982. I cite them as Du Bois [original year], [volume number: page number] in Du Bois 1982. 3. Progress occupies the position of what I call in War for Peace an “insinuate,” and which accords with Du Bois’s claim that peace is about production, addition, and civilization. See Idris 2019, 3–4. 4. This section on Sayyid Quṭb draws on and extends the analysis of Idris 2019, chap. 6, and of a book manuscript in progress, tentatively titled, Theorizing an Islamic International: The International Thought of Sayyid Qutb, 1945–1953. All translations are my own.

REFERENCES Arendt, Hannah. 1970. On Violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World. Armitage, David. 2017. Civil Wars: A History in Ideas. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Chinkin, Christine, and Mary Kaldor. 2017. International Law and New Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Douzinas, Costas. 2000. The End of Human Rights: Critical Thought at the Turn of the Century. New York: Bloomsbury. Douzinas, Costas. 2007. Human Rights and Empire: The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism. New York: Routledge. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1915. “The African Roots of War.” Atlantic Monthly 115 (May): 707–14. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1917–1918. “The Problem of Problems.” Intercollegiate Socialist 6 (December/ January): 5–9. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1920. Darkwater. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Howe. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1935. “Inter-Racial Implications of the Ethiopian Crisis: A Negro View.” Foreign Affairs 14 (October): 82–92. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1936. “The Union of Color.” Aryan Path [Bombay] 7 (October): 438–84. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1943. “The Realities in Africa; European Profit or Negro Development?” Foreign Affairs 21 (July): 721–32. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1944. “Imperialism, United Nations, Colonial People.” New Leader 27 (December 30): 5. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1945. Color and Democracy: Peace and Colonies. New York: Harcourt, Brace. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1949a. “Peace: Freedom’s Road for Oppressed Peoples.” Worker (April 17): 7. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1949b. “The Sane Liberal.” Soviet Russia Today 17 (September): 25–26. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1950. “An Open Letter to Secretary of State Dean Acheson.” Post-Standard [Syracuse, NY], July 26. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1952a. “America and World Peace.” New World Review (November): 49–52. Du Bois, W. E .B. 1952b. “Save the Rosenbergs.” Worker (November 16): 3. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1953. “Insist on Peace: Now, Forever.” Peace Reporter (September/October): 1–2. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1955. “Memorandum on the Bandung Conference, April 1955.” https://credo Du Bois, W. E. B. 1956. “The Rape of Africa.” American Negro 1 (February): 6–10. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1957. “Gandhi and the American Negroes.” Gandhi Marg (July): 1–4. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1982. Writings by W.E.B. Du Bois in Periodicals Edited by Others, comp. and ed. Herbert Aptheker. 4 Volumes. New York: Kraus-Thomson.

144 Intellectual Engagements Euben, Roxanne L. 1999. Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Feldman, Allen. 1991. Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Foucault, Michel. 1984. “Truth and Power.” In The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon. Getachew, Adom. 2019. Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Getachew, Adom, and Jennifer Pitts. Forthcoming. “Democracy and Empire: An Introduction to the International Thought of W. E. B. Du Bois.” In W. E. B. Du Bois, International Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Heidegger, Martin. 1973. “Overcoming Metaphysics (1954).” In The End of Philosophy, trans. Joan Stambaugh, 84–110. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Idris, Murad. 2019. War for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought. New York: Oxford University Press. Idris, Murad. 2021. “Rawls, Genealogy, History.” Polity 53(4): 541–54. Lustick, Ian. 1993. Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1968. The Will to Power, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House. Quṭb, Sayyid. 1951a. “Amrīkā allatī raʾayt: fī mīzān al-qiyam al-insāniyya 2”. al-Risāla 959 (November 19): 1301–6. Quṭb, Sayyid. 1951b. Maʿrakat al-Islam wa-l-raʾsmāliyya. Cairo: Maṭbaʿat Dār al-Kitāb al-ʿArabī. Quṭb, Sayyid. 1951c. al-Salām al-ʿĀlamī wa-l-Islām. Cairo: Maktabat Wahbah. Quṭb, Sayyid. 1952a. “ʿAduwwu-nā al-awwal: al-rajul al-abyaḍ”. al-Risāla 1009 (November 3): 1217–19. Quṭb, Sayyid. 1952b. “Tarīq waḥīd”. al-Risāla 972 (February 18): 181–83. Quṭb, Sayyid. 1953. “Mabādiʿ al-ʿālam al-ḥurr!”. al-Risāla 1018 (January 5): 14–16. Schmitt, Carl. 1979. “Vorwort”. In Der Begriff Des Politischen. Berlin: Duncker and Humblot. First published 1932. Tacitus. 1999. Agricola, trans. Anthony R. Birley. New York: Oxford University Press. Valdez, Inés. 2019. Transnational Cosmopolitanism: Kant, Du Bois, and Justice as a Political Craft. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vitalis, Robert. 2015. White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Walzer, Michael. 2015. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. 5th ed. New York: Basic. Weber, Max. 1949. “The Meaning of ‘Ethical Neutrality’ in Sociology and Economics.” In On the Methodology of the Social Sciences, trans. and ed. Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch, 1–47. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. Zolo, Danilo. 2002. Invoking Humanity: War, Law and Global Order. New York: Continuum. Zolo, Danilo. 2009. Victors’ Justice: From Nuremberg to Baghdad. New York: Verso.

7 Personal Pronouns and Political Protest Henry David Thoreau and Ta-Nehisi Coates as Critics in Times of Crisis DI E T E R T HO MÄ

Critical distance is measured in inches. Walzer, Interpretation and Social Criticism


enry David Thoreau and Ta-Nehisi Coates have nothing in common. Thoreau is a child of the nineteenth century; Coates comes to fame in the twenty-first. Thoreau praises “chastity” (Thoreau 2001, 329) and dies as a virgin (for all we know); Coates is happily married (for all we know). Thoreau is an incurable individualist; Coates speaks as a member of “my community” (Coates 2017, 147). Thoreau practices survival as a romantic form of art during his experiment at Walden Pond; Coates says, “Before I could discover, before I could escape, I had to survive,” and remembers feeling “naked before the elements of the world, before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease” (Coates 2015a, 21, 17). Last but not least: Thoreau is white; Coates is black. To my knowledge, the latter never mentions the former in his writings. Thoreau and Coates have a lot in common. Thoreau says, “In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained” (Thoreau 1985, 325); Coates excels in autobiographical writing. Thoreau says, “My thoughts are murder to the State” (Thoreau 2001, 346); Coates wants to “burn with his pen” like an “arsonist” (Coates 2017, 89). Thoreau praises the “hero” who “fronts a fact” (Thoreau 2001, 239; 1985, 249); Coates is mesmerized by superheroes and writes graphic novels for the Black Panther and Captain America series (Coates 2016; Coates and Harvey

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2017; Coates 2019). Thoreau says that “patriotism is a maggot” in certain people’s heads (Thoreau 1985, 578); Coates follows Frederick Douglass’s maxim “I have no patriotism” (Coates 2017, 136). Thoreau belongs to a heterodox strain of American exceptionalism; Coates says, “I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard” (Coates 2015a, 8). Thoreau is a forefather of ecology and writes a hymn on “wild apples” (Thoreau 2001, 444); Coates objects to “plunder[ing] not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself” (Coates 2015a, 150). Thoreau is a champion of “civil disobedience,” yet salutes John Brown as “the most American of us all” and “foresee[s] circumstances in which” he himself would find the use of weapons “unavoidable” (Thoreau 2001, 203, 407, 413); Coates defends “the morality of nonviolence” (Coates 2015a, 32) yet praises Malcolm X (Coates 2017, 100, 104) and suspects that the dogma of “nonviolence” is a “ruse” (Coates 2015b). Last but not least: Thoreau fights slavery, while Coates fights its tacit continuation under a regime “of domination and exclusion” (Coates 2015a, 42). In the following, I will explore the seemingly disparate similarities between Thoreau and Coates and address the differences between them. Both authors belong to the leading essayists and political commentators of their time, write in moments of crisis, tackle very similar problems, and are controversial. Involving two spearheads of democratic movements in a virtual dialogue strikes me as a promising enterprise. It is symptomatic of the compartmentalization of today’s theoretical landscape that attempts to compare them are scarce. The next section of this paper will be dedicated to Thoreau’s and Coates’s modes of writing and their identities as social critics. The last section will focus on content, namely, on their thoughts on slavery, race, and liberation.

THE FIRST-PERSON SINGULAR AND ITS ROLE IN SOCIAL CRITICISM Those who find that Buffon overdid it when stating “Le style c’est l’homme même” may still agree on the variant “The style is the critic himself” or “herself.” Questions of style play a pivotal role in criticism. As already mentioned, the most conspicuous similarity between Thoreau’s and Coates’s style is their extensive use of the first-person singular. In order to properly situate Thoreau’s and Coates’s respective use of the “I,” I will first take a step back and talk about the social critics’ discursive stance in general by making use of Michael Walzer’s distinction

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between the “detached” and the “connected” critic. This distinction will then be amended for the purpose of the comparison conducted in this paper. Walzer’s typology is polemical in nature. He takes issue with the “conventional view” that pictures the critic as someone who “stands outside, in some privileged place, where he [or she] has access to ‘advanced’ or universal principles.” This critic is detached not only from society but also “from his own marginality.” When admitting situatedness or even entanglement, this critic would compromise the self-proclaimed “capacity for objective judgment” (Walzer 1987, 38). The archetypical representative of a detached critic of this kind is arguably Julien Benda, who praises the intellectual as an authoritative custodian of reason and enlightenment standing “outside the social and political world” or inhabiting “a separate world” (Walzer 2002, 42, 44). Benda follows a motto coined by Francis Bacon and brought to fame by Immanuel Kant: “De nobis ipsis silemus” (About ourselves we do not speak). It is not incidental that Samuel Beckett drove this idea to an almost unbearable extreme when citing it in his novel The Unnamable (Beckett 2010, 42). Walzer turns against the “detached” critic and takes side with a social critic, whom he describes as “connected”: The connected critic . . . learns his authority, or fails to do so, by arguing with his fellows—who, angrily and insistently, sometimes at considerable personal risk (he can be a hero too), objects, protests, and remonstrates. This critic is one of us. . . . His appeal is to local or localized principles. (Walzer 1987, 39) He is not a detached observer, even when he looks at the society he inhabits with a fresh and skeptical eye. He is not an enemy, even when he is fiercely opposed to this or that prevailing practice or institutional arrangement. (Walzer 1987, 61)

How does Walzer’s typology relate to the critics’ use of the first-person singular? According to Walzer, neither the detached nor the connected critic should champion it. The detached critic does not speak in their own name but acts as a defender of universal values, as a mouthpiece of humanity. The connected critic, in turn, acts as “one of us”: “Though he starts with himself, he speaks in the first person plural. This is what we value and want, he says, and don’t yet have. This is how we mean to live and don’t yet live” (Walzer 2002, 230). As the favorite pronoun of the detached critic is “they” (standing, e.g., for “human beings”) and the favorite pronoun of the connected critic is “we” (as in

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“This is what we value”), Walzer’s typology is unfit to fully account for Thoreau’s and Coates’s critical stance. What do the critics described by Walzer have to offer as entry points for the first-person singular? Most detached critics abhor the subjective viewpoint of the “I.” They argue that it distracts from the matter and prevents neutrality. Assuming that the detached critic stays away from the “I” altogether would be oversimplifying the  matter, though. Some detached critics use the first-person singular in a peculiar manner, namely, as a marker representing the subject in general. Broadly speaking, this strategy goes back to Descartes’s “I” or ego cogitans, which is not the “I” of a single individual but a neutralized “I” contained in each and every human being (Thomä 2018b, 112–13). Connected critics are expected to embrace the “we.” Yet many of them are still drawn to the “I” referring to a particular individual (and not to an ideal, neutral subject). They do not want to overstate their role as spokespersons and refrain from fully committing themselves to a group. As Walzer himself lays out convincingly, critics are mostly on their own, raise their voice, take a stance, and try their edge. Some are even doomed to forlornness or retract into solitude. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, states: “I am now alone on the earth, no longer having any brother, neighbor, friend or society other than myself. The most sociable and the most loving of humans has been proscribed from society by a unanimous agreement. In the refinements of their hatred, they . . . have violently broken all the ties which attached me to them” (Rousseau 2000, 3). Any critique inevitably entails distance and distinction. This is true for the critics’ relation to an existing order, but also for their relation to or role within a social movement. Alexander Herzen, Rosa Luxemburg, Antonio Gramsci, Hannah Arendt, or Michel Foucault are never just partisans. They may well appeal to a “we,” as Walzer suggests, but this “we” is fragile and tentative. Oftentimes, it is still in the making. Slowly but surely, it may take shape—or not. The effort of anticipating it cannot be undertaken but by an “I.” Axel Honneth puts that idea in a succinct manner: If a topographical picture can be helpful here at all, it would be that of an ‘internal abroad’: from the side, from an internal perspective that has been displaced to the outside, they observe the whole of practices and convictions that have spread in their own culture of origin. . . . But only their remaining connected to this culture enabled them to put the verve, care, and energy into their work that is necessary for a successful critique of social self-understandings. (Honneth 2009, 185)

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Those critics who are unable or unwilling to either take a neutral stance or identify with a “we” are thrown back to their “I” and find themselves in a situation where they are drawn back and forth between two attitudes: modesty and arrogance. By earmarking their propositions as assertions of an “I,” they display modesty. They argue for a cause that may well become a common cause without knowing whether their proposal will resonate with a prevailing social movement or a community to come. Any avant-garde should be aware of the fact that its self-appointed role is not uncontested and remains tentative. This does not mean, though, that critics are fond of self-effacing exercises. A critic is well advised to say: “My statements come with validity claims, but they are my statements, and it is me who is obliged and entitled to defend them. Propositions are speechacts, thinking is acting and, as such, implies an actor who raises his [or her] ‘voice’ ” (Thomä 2018b, 114). This means that the critics’ modesty may be paired with ambition or even arrogation in a good sense. Stanley Cavell deserves credit for rereading the idea of “arrogation” and linking it to the notion of “voice” (Cavell 1994, vii, 3, 58). What he says about philosophers also applies to critics. Their claims are neither firmly based on undisputed principles nor limited to purely individual judgments. When a critic like Thoreau says about a politician that “he is not a leader, but a follower” (Thoreau 2001, 222), he cannot expect instant, universal approval, but dares others to share his view. As the critics’ claims go beyond mere fancy, they work with “the arrogant assumption of the right to speak for others” (Cavell 1994, vii–viii). To be sure, Cavell does not hold this arrogance to be generally reproachable. It is a necessary condition for successfully playing the language game of theory and critique, yet it needs to be handled with care. Paradoxically speaking, those who downplay arrogation are indeed arrogant in a negative sense. They feel entitled to make bold, universal claims and override the fact that these originate in an individual’s voice. Arrogation does become plausible or even commendable when it takes on a self-reflective, conscientious form. “We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking” (Thoreau 1985, 325). The critics’ “I” works on two levels. They raise their voices, address an imaginary or real community, and are willing to vouch for their claims in a responsive, responsible manner. They practice parrhesia in the sense of having the “courage” to say what they think (Foucault 2001, 15). As speaking up means speaking one’s mind, critics also feel inclined to talk about this mind itself, that is, about their own mind. This is why critics—not always, but frequently—dare

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to address personal matters and show how their agenda is moored in their own experience. By positioning themselves as persons concerned, they may not hamper their message, but gain credibility. In his considerations on voice and arrogation, Cavell concludes that theory does not need to “shun the autobiographical” (Cavell 1994, 3). Critique and autobiography may engage in a fruitful interplay after all. Walzer gives a beautiful quote from Franz Rosenzweig elucidating this point: The thinker must proceed boldly from his own subjective situation. The single condition imposed upon us by objectivity is that we survey the entire horizon; but we are not obliged to make this survey from any position other than the one in which we are, nor are we obliged to make it from no position at all. Our eyes are, indeed, only our own eyes; yet it would be a folly to imagine that we must pluck them out in order to see straight. (Glatzer 1961, 179; Walzer 2002, 232)

Both levels—the “I” of a speaker or interlocutor and the “I” of an individual exposing himself or herself on a personal level—are on display in Thoreau and Coates. They do not belong to the group of detached critics assuming a distant, neutral position from which they analyze and judge a political system. Thoreau and Coates act as concerned or participating observers spelling out their vantage point. This does not mean, though, that they act as fully connected critics in Walzer’s sense and prefer the first-person plural over the first-person singular. Thoreau’s and Coates’s reticence in this respect hints at a complication in Walzer’s typology. It is concealed in the notion of connectedness. Generally speaking, a connection results from some kind of initial action establishing a relation between two entities (think of the technical operation of connecting to the Internet) or an interaction between persons (think of the phrase “We connected really well”). “Connecting” differs from, say, “belonging” (Thomä 2012). The phrase “I connect with my mom” does not just mean that we are related but denotes a genuine interaction superposing the generational bond. Walzer alludes to two different layers of social relations when talking about connectedness. The first layer could run under the label of embeddedness, the second under the label of commitment. Both allow for the use of the first-person plural, but in different ways. The “we” in the sense of embeddedness decidedly deviates from the intentional approach of connecting to people. It appeals to given relations or traditions as predicaments of being human. The “we” in the sense

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of commitment allows for self-chosen affiliations or memberships. It matters to Walzer to keep these two layers together, as he turns against conservative communitarianism and Sartrian engagement alike. It still makes sense to distinguish these layers, though, as they apply to different social settings and practices. This is where the “I” comes into play—not the hypothetical “I” of a detached critic, but the “I” of a critic struggling to cope with existing relations, find his or her own way, and embrace a common cause. Disentangling embeddedness and commitment helps assess the positions taken by Thoreau and Coates. Their efforts to address a community, reach out to it, or connect to it are anteceded by prior affiliations representing some kind of preexisting condition. Before setting their own agenda and shaping the scene themselves, they cannot help but be embedded and belong to specific traditions. Their ways of dealing with them and facing them vary greatly. In order to gauge Thoreau’s and Coates’s critical stance, one must certainly consider where they belong. They are not just rooted in the culture and politics of the United States but belong to distinct moments in the history of this country. It is anything but inconsequential that Thoreau is a WASP from New England and Coates grew up as a black boy in Baltimore. Such multiple affiliations complicate connectedness. People endorse, transform, or defy collective identities on different levels. In the age of social differentiation and stratification, they make choices, side with one community, and turn against another. Some may even feel disenfranchised and have a hard time embracing a community at all. I suggest that Walzer’s typology of critics needs to be amended. Accordingly, the detached and connected critics are joined by a figure who may be called an interfering critic. (Here I borrow an expression originally chosen for describing a method of literary criticism; for the “critique interventionniste,” see Escola 2012, 10.) While the favorite pronouns of the detached and connected critics are “they” and “we,” respectively, the favorite pronoun of the interfering critic is “I.” (It would be tempting to complement this repertoire of pronouns and their political bearings by also discussing “you” as an addressee of appeals and a source of demands; Keene 2015, 141. It is safe to say that the “I” of the interfering critic is most apt to do justice to such a dialogical setting; I cannot expand on this here.) Before turning to Thoreau and Coates, I will take a step back and ponder the question of how the three types of critics deal with crises. In order to properly classify their approaches, it is important to keep in mind that a crisis contains two aspects: etymologically speaking, krisis and krinein stand for the attempt to take stock, make distinctions, or, as Shakespeare put it, “teach . . . differences”

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(Shakespeare 1998, 639). Moreover, the semantics of krisis and krinein comprises the faculty of judging and making decisions. According to this double meaning, any crisis entails both theoretical and practical questions: the persons concerned are called upon to find out what they are at—and what to do. The very idea of critique reflects both meanings by asking for close readings and by encouraging strong evaluations. The three types of critics set different priorities when it comes to the theoretical and practical demands posed by a crisis. Detached critics choose the bird’s-eye view and prioritize the theoretical approach. They defend their removal by stating that they are thus enabled to see the bigger picture, including possibly a way out. While detached critics view the crisis mainly as a theoretical challenge, connected critics prefer to act as involved observers or observing participants. They do not claim to have a picture-perfect overview of the situation but seek to foster agency and exert solidarity. Their approach is mainly practical. Interfering critics seem to be weaker on both counts: they seem to fall short when it comes to theoretical expertise and practical solidarity alike. By turning the tables, they could claim that their marginal position has a particular potential. As their removal is less resolute and absolute than that of the detached critic, they are prepared to get involved. As they stay away from the connected critic, who is eager to join a “we,” they may be less prone to be blinkered. While interfering critics cannot excel on the theoretical or practical plane by itself, they seem to be equipped to live up to the twofold challenge posed in times of crisis. They want to be observers and participants alike. Critics like Thoreau and Coates raise their individual voice and act as “marginal men” (Park 1928). I would suggest that Thoreau is an interfering critic inclined to become a connected critic, while Coates is a connected critic inclined to become an interfering critic. Both have strong feelings about their affiliations, seek to reach out to others, and make claims appealing to them. Two souls are dwelling in their breast: that of an individual and that of a fellow man. Neither of them will cease, but one of them initially dominates. In Thoreau’s case, it is the soul of the individual; in Coates’s, the soul of the fellow man. Thoreau says, “Nations! What are nations? . . . The historian strives in vain to make them memorable. It is for want of a man that there are so many men. It is individuals that populate the world” (Thoreau 2001, 360). He prides himself on having “a little world all to myself” (Thoreau 1985, 426), despises the “organ of gregariousness” (Thoreau 2001, 209), and says, “Men are degraded when considered as the members of a political organization. . . . In society you will not find health” (Thoreau 1906a, 306). Thoreau is fond of leaving organizations or

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mocking them. He signs off from his parish in 1841 and writes a hilarious letter of refusal when invited to the tenth anniversary of the graduation of his Harvard class of 1837: “I confess that I have very little class spirit, and have almost forgotten that I ever spent four years at Cambridge. That must have been in a former state of existence” (Thoreau 1958, 185). This brings us back to what Honneth called an “internal abroad,” mentioned previously. It resonates with Judith Shklar’s commentary on Thoreau, whom she situates in some kind of an “internal exile.” He was asserting the unconditional primacy of conscience in the face of what he regarded as absolute evil. The moral “empire of me” was created because there was no other. . . . The Abolitionists . . . could . . . [not] identify with the slaves, be part of society, or become blacks. A Thoreau had neither the camaraderie of the revolutionary, nor a shared identity with the slaves. There was no “we.” They were alone to the point of self-exclusion. The “Inner Civil War” as it is called could only be ended by the real war. . . . Although, unlike most abolitionists he was not a racist, as far as we know, Thoreau certainly could not join the blacks. (Shklar 1993, 194–45)

In a compelling manner, Shklar describes an “I” finding itself in a fragile position and suffering from the absence of a “we.” Thoreau’s famous—some say: infamous (Schulz 2015)—individualism does not remain unbridled, though. Otherwise, it would be inexplicable how he could play his role as social critic addressing contemporaries. Even though he has a mixed record as a “neighbor,” he is “as desirous of being a good neighbor as . . . of being a bad subject” of the state (Thoreau 2001, 219). Thoreau clearly distinguishes between more and less appealing communities, collective identities, or forms of “we.” While excelling as an outlier and outsider, he does not hesitate to join forces and to collaborate with other abolitionists while working for the Underground Railroad. Thoreau is a critic for whom existing communities are mostly points of departures, not points of destination. Marginality makes him modest and arrogant, vulnerable and strong at once. As a dissenter and lawbreaker, he has to fear persecution and punishment from the state, but he claims moral superiority when opposing the government enslaving “one sixth of the population” (Thoreau 2001, 206). Both aspects come to the fore when Thoreau says “I had never respected the government near to which I lived, but I had foolishly thought that I might manage to live here, minding my private affairs, and forget it. . . . I dwelt before, perhaps, in the illusion that my life passed somewhere only

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between heaven and hell, but now I cannot persuade myself that I do not dwell wholly within hell” (Thoreau 2001, 345). Even though, on economic and social terms, his position remains inferior for an extended period of his life, he is, after all, an heir of a small pencil company and helps to successfully run the firm for a couple of years. It is fitting to say that his self-chosen position is not “down there” but at the margins. Even though marginality is often associated with discrimination, the logic of center and margins is largely horizontal. Coates explicitly argues “from below.” His view “originates” in “the dungeonside view of Monticello” (Coates 2015a, 105, 149). His role is assigned to him from above, from those in power. He feels bodily pain and psychological pressure. “We did not choose our fences,” he says. He describes the world as a cage and finds himself in “chains.” Only “some of us make it out” (Coates 2015a, 42, 85, 125). While Thoreau’s logic is mainly horizontal, Coates’s logic is mainly vertical. While Thoreau’s marginality is self-chosen, Coates’s position is forced upon him. One of Coates’s major quarrels with Barack Obama circles around the Thoreauvian question of whether individuals can escape from arduous circumstances and should be blamed for not trying hard enough to do so. Coates’s critique of Obama’s “ ‘personal responsibility’  rhetoric” and “ ‘straighten up’ talk” (Coates 2017, 299–300) can be transposed to an imaginary controversy with Thoreau. Coates explicitly objects to the “myth” of “exceptional individuals” changing the course of the world: “Perhaps one person can make a change, but not the kind of change that would raise your body to equality with your countrymen” (Coates 2017, 96). He regards this kind of individualism as an ideology concealing the fact that personal achievements remain a matter of privilege. “My experience in this world has been that the people who believe themselves to be white are obsessed with the politics of personal exoneration” (Coates 2015a, 97). He describes race as a construct largely determining the life stories of the members of his community. Pretending that such preconditions do not exist is preposterous. Distancing oneself from embeddedness is futile. While Thoreau does “not wish to be regarded as a member of any incorporated society which I have not joined” (Thoreau 2001, 216), Coates acknowledges the fact that he is always already a member of the black community. This means that he solves the ambiguity contained in the notion of the connected critic by preferring embeddedness over commitment. At the same time, he does not settle for just belonging to a community but prepares himself for becoming an interfering critic. When trying to position himself between the primordial predicament of his life and his connection to others and commitment to a cause, Coates sends

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out mixed signals. His mix differs from Thoreau’s, but the structural ambiguity between “I” and “we” remains the same. Oftentimes, Coates is inclined to speak in the name of a “we” and to make use of the “first-person plural” along the lines of the connected critic in Walzer’s sense. He gains access to the “we” of the black community by redefining and reappropriating an identity initially assigned from above. This prior identity is based on racial discrimination put into effect “by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named us matters more than anything we could ever actually do” (Coates 2015a, 120). The black community is still able to gain a new self-image by cultivating “black pride” or by embracing Obama’s line, “I always felt as if being black was cool” (Coates 2017, 306). When Coates says, “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people” (Coates 2015a, 149), he seems to contend that the process of building a new identity in the sense of a practical “we” has come to a close. Yet this contention is varied, mitigated, or even revoked at other occasions. In his graphic novel Black Panther and the Crew: We Are the Streets (Coates and Harvey 2017), Coates explicitly addresses “the ‘We’ ” (as if he had read Michael Walzer) and shows how two protagonists, T’Challa and Misty, have some serious reservations when joining it. At the beginning, T’Challa insists on his role as king and wants to take care of his own business, of “a matter of national security” only. Misty is ambivalent about her identity as a member of the police force and as a Harlem resident. Both overcome their concerns in the course of the story. At other occasions, Coates is wary of a “we” in the sense of a collective identity in general, and of the black “we” in particular. He claims that it is not integral and self-contained but multifaceted and conflicting. When looking back at the history of his community, he concludes that “I had come looking for a parade, for a military review of champions marching in ranks. Instead I was left with a brawl of ancestors, a herd of dissenters, sometimes marching together but just as often marching away from each other” (Coates 2015a, 48). Coates does not intend to reach a solid collective identity after all. He envisages a “process that .  .  . would break all the dreams, all the comforting myths of Africa, of America, and everywhere, and would leave me only with humanity in all its terribleness. And there was so much terrible out there, even among us.” Coates’s example for the “terribleness . . . among us” is Prince George’s County, a better-off black neighborhood that has “a police force as vicious as any in America.” “To be black and beautiful was not a matter for gloating. . . . The writer, and that was what I was becoming, must be wary of

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every Dream and every nation, even his own nation. Perhaps his own nation more than any other, precisely because it was his own” (Coates 2015a, 52–53). Coates maintains a critical distance when addressing, relating, and connecting to “his own nation,” the Black Nation. He objects to a merger of personal and collective identity or to what psychologists call “identity fusion” (Swann et al. 2012). It could also be said that Coates transforms from a connected to an interfering critic. This means that the difference between Thoreau and Coates is less stark than it seems. Beside the fact that Thoreau’s individualism is anything but rugged, Coates is less committed to his community than he intermittently pretends. He turns against “exceptional individuals” (see previous mention), but lays out his own kind of individualism when turning against collective, generalizing attributions and trying to do justice to individual experiences, sufferings, and achievements: If every black body was precious, . . . how could I see these precious lives as simply a collective mass . . . ? How could I privilege the spectrum of dark energy over each particular ray of light? . . . The Dream thrives on generalization, on limiting the number of possible questions, on privileging immediate answers. The Dream is the enemy of all art, courageous thinking, and honest writing. And it became clear that this was not just for the dreams concocted by Americans to justify themselves but also for the dreams that I had conjured to replace them. . . . The art I was coming to love lived in the void, in the not yet knowable, in the pain, in the question. (Coates 2015a, 49–50)

SLAVERY, RACE, AND LIBERATION Systematically speaking, Thoreau and Coates develop their respective modes of critique from altogether different starting points and then move into each other’s vicinity. Thoreau is an individualist reaching out for a community; Coates is a community member with individualistic inclinations. This explains both their similarities and their divergences, which play out when it comes to the issues of slavery, racism, and liberation. Thoreau’s argument against slavery largely follows a narrative of backlash and betrayal. He probably would not object to the idea that the United States could

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be called a promised land in the secular sense: a country in which promises given by the founders are to be fulfilled. It shall be the “land of the free.” Yet Thoreau states that these promises have been betrayed. The persistent regime of slavery makes painfully clear that the realization of freedom remains incomplete. His argument is based on a “surplus of validity” contained in the institutional settings of the existing order (Honneth 2003, 151, 186). Yet Thoreau does not focus on legal-political structures, but on the enactment of freedom. His concept of democracy is performative. It is about the experience and actualization of freedom, not about a system of government and representation. Institutions are regarded as devices suspicious of curtailing freedom rather than protecting or enhancing it. Thoreau seeks to be faithful to the founding fathers not by following a preconceived plan, but by reenacting the very idea of founding, shaping, and realizing freedom. “The law will never make men free, it is men who have got to make the law free” (Thoreau 2001, 338). Thoreau belongs to the Jeffersonian strain of American political theory, which favors permanent reiteration and renewal and defends the rights of the “living” generation against the “dead” (Jefferson 1984, 959). Generally speaking, Thoreau’s social theory, if he has any, focuses on human action, not on behavior and systems. He is neither interested nor competent in analyzing the legal, political, and economic aspects of slavery. He finds it repulsive for a strong and simple reason: it runs against individual freedom. This argument is color-blind, as it allows for a broader understanding of slavery and addresses phenomena not regularly subsumed under this label. Even though Thoreau regards the enslavement of “our colored fellow-citizens” (Thoreau 2001, 411) as the original sin of the United States, he considers various forms of political, economic, and psychological enslavement: America is said to be the arena on which the battle of freedom is to be fought; but surely it cannot be freedom in a merely political sense that is meant. Even if we grant that the American has freed himself from a political tyrant, he is still the slave of an economical and moral tyrant. . . . Do we call this the land of the free? What is it to be free from King George and continue the slaves of King Prejudice? (Thoreau 2001, 362–63)

Thoreau does not hesitate to blur the distinction between the legal institution of slave ownership and the economic practice of enslaving the workforce or of using the “laboring man” as a mere “machine” (Thoreau 1985, 328). His broad notion of slavery extends to all people trapped in a preconceived worldview and

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submitting to given regulations. Accordingly, slavery becomes an almost ubiquitous phenomenon: Talk about slavery! It is not the peculiar institution of the South. It exists wherever men are bought and sold, wherever a man allows himself to be made a mere thing or a fool, and surrenders his inalienable rights of reason and conscience. Indeed, this slavery is more complete than that which enslaves the body alone. It exists in the Northern States, and I am reminded by what I find in the newspapers that it exists in Canada. I never yet met with, or heard of, a judge who was not a slave of this kind, and so the finest and most unfailing weapon of injustice. He fetches a slightly higher price than the black man only because he is a more valuable slave. . . . Judges . . . are servile, while the poor fugitive in their jail is free in spirit at least. (Thoreau 1906b, 293)

When criticizing the modern habit of acting as “the slave-driver of yourself” (Thoreau 1985, 328), Thoreau even anticipates theories of repression and selfdiscipline outlined by Freud, Horkheimer and Adorno, and Foucault. The fact that Thoreau aims at such a broad meaning of slavery should be regarded as a double-edged sword. According to a charitable reading, he seeks to bring together a wide range of forms of oppression and create commonalities among those who are enslaved for different reasons, under different regimes, and with different skin colors. According to a less benevolent reading, Thoreau belittles the fate of “one sixth of the population” (Thoreau 2001, 206; see previous mention) and distracts from slavery in the proper, property-bound sense of the word. It is certainly advisable to address the black community in its own right and to act accordingly when it comes to, say, native Americans, illegal immigrants, women, and other underprivileged groups. The most controversial point made by Thoreau comes to the fore in the lengthy quotation already given: he perceives slavery in the strict, narrow sense as an attack on “the body alone” and states that its victims retain some spiritual or intellectual leeway for making up their own mind. It is true that many techniques of oppression employ manipulative strategies in order to goad individuals to internalizing attitudes and opinions. Oppressors try to get hold of their subjects’ minds in an anything but oblique manner. Thoreau’s claim about the relative freedom of slaves sounds cynical, as it is hardly conceivable how humans being abused as tools for cotton picking or other chores could still exert their freedom of the will. Physical exploitation sucks the air out of the breathing room needed by free spirits. It creeps into people’s minds.

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Thoreau’s assessment of slavery’s impact on body and/or mind is not just morally questionable but also disturbing on systematic grounds. Generally speaking, he is not known for endorsing such a dualistic worldview. When talking about physical enslavement and spiritual freedom, he certainly does not aim at compartmentalizing the human being and making a metaphysical argument along the lines of the Cartesian distinction between res extensa and res cogitans. Like his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau embraces experience in a sensualist sense and believes in the malleability and receptiveness of the mind, for better or worse. This means that he cannot endorse a clear-cut distinction between physical subjugation and psychological dependency. It is worthwhile reconstructing Thoreau’s account of the mind–body relationship as an argument grounded on empirical observations rather than on metaphysical presuppositions. Instead of erecting a firewall between body and mind, Thoreau simply observes that slavery in the historically specific sense targets human beings as objects, things, or tools serving specific functions. In this sense, he is right to say that the slaves’ “spirit” evades the attention of their owners. They deem it nonexistent. The very idea of humans as property technically excludes the idea of them taking a subjective stance. Yet the fact that slave owners ignore the spiritual freedom of their underlings does not prevent them from using disciplinary techniques of internalization comparable to those applied, for example, in the classical setting of Jeremy Bentham’s “panopticon” (Thomä 2018a, 70–72). Such oppressors are able to “trap” the “minds” of their victims, as Coates put it (Parham 2015; see following discussion). If Coates had a conversation with Thoreau about the issue of slavery, he would probably disagree with him on two counts. He would not want to work with such a broad notion of slavery, nor would he draw a distinction between the enslavement of the body and the enslavement of the soul. Coates does employ a broad concept of slavery when drawing a line from historical slavery to the “second slavery” still ruling “in the Deep South” in the aftermath of the Civil War (Coates 2017, 178). He leaves unspecified whether and when this new form of slavery has come to an end at all. This does not mean, though, that Coates would join Thoreau in drawing a wide panorama displaying economic, moral, and psychological slavery alike. In his view, such an account blurs the difference between an abominable practice of subjugation and other forms of suppression. Coates rightly states that there is something unique about the “gravity of our particular world” (Coates 2015a, 81). As this uniqueness has to do with the fact that discrimination against blacks is exclusively based on a physical feature, namely, skin color, it leads back to the

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discussion of body and mind touched upon earlier. Its philosophical implications are dutifully spelled out by Coates. The body plays a paramount role in Coates’s writings. He insists on the primacy of the experience of being born into a black body or being born with a black skin—an experience anteceding the attempt to attain any kind of self-image or self-consciousness. “The question of how one should live within a black body . . . is the question of my life” (Coates 2015a, 12). When an interviewer states, “I’m interested in this idea of choosing the word ‘black body’ as opposed to saying, ‘the black mind’ or ‘the black soul,’ ” Coates responds: I think the body is the ultimate thing. The soul and mind are part of the body. I don’t think there is anything outside of that. Your physical self is who you are. Some people feel that that is reductionist, but I don’t think it is. It’s just true. . . . The body is the mind. The mind is housed, as far as we know, within an organ—the brain. The brain is part of the body. And when people speak about the soul, they are speaking about certain sensations that they feel as a result of nerves and other organ systems within the body. For me specifically, not really coming out of a religious tradition, that’s how I understand black people. It very much clarifies for me the idea of physical violence. There is a tradition within black America, that I quarrel with, that says: They can do things to our body, but they can’t really trap our minds. I disagree with that. Every assault upon the body is, in fact, also an assault upon the mind. I don’t think there is any way to get away from that. (Parham 2015)

When arguing against “a tradition within black America” separating body and soul, Coates implicitly objects to Thoreau’s previously mentioned argument about slavery enslaving “the body alone.” Coates does not follow the strategy envisaged by some of his interlocutors: that the black community should regard any obstacles to its liberation as purely exterior and could rely on its self-determination. He draws the bleak image of a community suffering from the tacit continuation of slavery and from internal bleeding, that is, psychological frailties. Philosophically speaking, the universal appeal of Coates’s argument is not based on a strong notion of individual freedom—like Thoreau’s—but on an equally strong notion of human vulnerability. Thoreau envisages a society enslaved by conformism and welcomes troublemakers (Thomä 2019). He praises John Brown, who was sentenced to death after his raid at Harpers Ferry, as a harbinger of liberation and “the most American of us all” (Thoreau 2001, 407; see previous mention). At the risk of falling for anachronisms, one could say that Coates’s John Brown goes by the name of Malcolm X.

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Interestingly, his support for Malcolm X (Coates 2017, 93–105) is more reticent than Thoreau’s support for John Brown. Thoreau’s generous reading constitutes a stark contrast to Coates’s portrait. While Thoreau runs the risk of overestimating individual freedom, Coates runs the risk of underestimating it. He may have a hard time answering the question of how people could possibly escape from a “trap” when their bodies and souls are trapped alike. When it comes to emancipation and liberation, Coates offers two seemingly conflicting or even incompatible descriptions of the situation of blacks in the United States. Reconciling them is an intriguing challenge. One reading could be called constructivist, the other activist. As already mentioned, Coates perceives racism as a bodily or “visceral experience:” It “dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth” (Coates 2015a, 10). For Coates, being black is nothing “essential” (Coates 2015a, 120), but a construction brought into being by those masters who, in turn, only became truly “white” by creating a counter image and claiming superiority (Coates 2015a, 42). Blacks are framed as a race and then treated miserably. Their role in society follows a script written by others. It is based on a construction “invented,” as Coates likes to say, from above (Coates 2015a, 56). He obviously wants to dismantle this construction, but at times the image drawn by Coates is so bleak that an achievement of this kind seems virtually impossible: “Our story is a tragedy” (Coates 2017, 289). Desperation prevails. The denial or lack of agency is pressing. It is worth considering that the image drawn by Coates does not just result from historical experience but could be regarded as by-product of a methodological bias. Coates’s approach bears some resemblance to Bourdieu’s social constructivism, which puts particular emphasis on the bodily dimension of social power games and creates the image of virtually inescapable habitual patterns (Bourdieu 1984, 170–71). Whether this view leaves room for resistance and deviation is controversial among Bourdieu scholars. Some claim that his theory is very well capable of accounting for critical initiatives and social movements (Schmitt 2016). Others argue that Bourdieu’s methodology forces him to commit the unforced error of underrating agency and weakening the winds of change (Alexander 1995; Honneth 1995). Similar concerns have been raised against Coates, most famously by Cornel West in his critique of Coates’s “apolitical pessimism,” which “renders black fightback invisible” (West 2017). A melancholy tone prevails in most of Coates’s writing. It would still be misleading to classify Coates as a Bourdieusian transferring the latter’s scheme to his “tribe” (Coates 2015a, 60) and its doomed destiny. The constructivist approach

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leaves room for activism when it is regarded as a rhetorical figure eventually serving the purpose of a paradoxical intervention. A role model for this move is W. E. B. Du Bois. In The Souls of Black Folk from 1903, Du Bois says, “The very soul of the toiling, sweating black man is darkened by the shadow of a vast despair” (Du Bois 2007, 12). This is not Du Bois’s last word, though, as he links this description to the appeal for bettering the “black man’s” condition. Hinting at inhibitions and failings is not meant to build an iron cage, but to create a sense of urgency and to verify viable strategies of empowerment. This purpose becomes evident when the close connection between Coates’s essays and graphic novels is taken as seriously as it should. His bleak outlook is complemented by the attempt to build confidence and to enhance collective agency. The fact that Coates remains ambivalent when discussing black resistance should be regarded as a virtue rather than a vice. It pays tribute to the actual problems of liberation. In his graphic novels, Coates carefully lays out the potential and the pitfalls of creating common ground, joining forces, and paving the way to a “we,” which may play a role in social critique and social movements alike. Coates is not altogether skeptical when it comes to the empowerment of such a “we.” He feels that the view “from below” bears the potential of gaining critical insights inaccessible to those belonging to the mainstream. This power, this black power, originates in a view of the American galaxy taken from a dark and essential planet. Black power is the dungeon-side view of Monticello—which is to say, the view taken in struggle. And black power births a kind of understanding that illuminates all the galaxies in their truest colors. (Coates 2015a, 149) If you really wanted to understand this country, this alleged two-hundredyear attempt to establish a society on Enlightenment values, I could think of no better place to study that effort than from the perspective of those whom that society excluded and pillaged in order to bring those values into practice. I did not feel pigeonholed in my role, I felt advantaged. (Coates 2017, 114)

Yet Coates is suspicious of self-righteousness and abstains from boasting about epistemic privileges attributed to underprivileged groups. He states, “I’m not a believer in the nobility of the oppressed” (Coates 2010). He reminds the reader of the year 2008, when “we were shocked that black people, straight black people, in California did not make common cause to ensure the protection of

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marriage equality. Why are we shocked by that? Black people are homophobic, too. We’re American.” Coates talks about the difficulty of “extracting yourself” from social contexts and influences and states, “I don’t know that we can do it. I appreciate it as an aspiration. That’s good. But as an actual observation of what’s been historically, I don’t know, man” (Parham 2015). Coates makes a similar point in one of his graphic novels, where he makes up a poignant dialogue between the two female protagonists Blue and Misty. Misty says that she is “really getting tired of this city trying to kill me.” Blue responds, “If you were a mutant, you’d be used to it.” Then Misty says, “Girl. I’m black and I’m still not used to it.” Blue asks, “And if you’re both?” Misty concludes, “Don’t give me that intersectional privilege crap. This is Harlem, not Harvard” (Coates and Harvey 2017). By making fun of intersectionality, Coates turns against the popular postcolonial idea that the level of marginality and the quality of critique are proportionally related. I cannot expand upon this matter in detail here. It is fair to say, though, that marginality may indeed enable people to see something concealed to those stuck in the midst of things. Again, this idea can be traced back to Du Bois: “We who are dark can see America in a way that white Americans cannot” (Du Bois 1926, 290). But no secure standpoint is cut out for natural-born critics. Searching for a foolproof strategy, for the silver bullet of critique, is an ill-founded fantasy or, at best, wishful thinking. Social critique is a task requiring the willingness to challenge others and to question oneself. I dare to presume that Coates would agree with Thoreau’s confession at the end of Walden: It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make, that you shall speak so that they can understand you. . . . As if there were safety in stupidity alone. I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra-vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced. Extra vagance! . . . I desire to speak somewhere without bounds; like a man in a waking moment, to men in their waking moments. (Thoreau 1985, 580–81) REFERENCES Alexander, Jeffrey. 1995. “The Reality of Reduction: The Failed Synthesis of Pierre Bourdieu.” In Fin-de-Siècle Social Theory, Relativism, Reduction and the Problem of Reason, 128–217. London: Routledge. Beckett, Samuel. 2010. The Unnamable, ed. Steven Connor. London: Faber and Faber.

164 Intellectual Engagements Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Cavell, Stanley. 1994. A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2010. “Especially the Blacks and the Irish.” The Atlantic, June 2. https://www Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015a. Between the World and Me. New York: Random House. Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015b. “Nonviolence as Compliance.” The Atlantic, April 27. https://www Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2016. Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book One. New York: Marvel. Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2017. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. New York: Random House. Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2019. Captain America: Winter in America. New York: Marvel. Coates, Ta-Nehisi, and Yona Harvey. 2017. Black Panther and the Crew: We Are the Streets. New York: Marvel. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1926. “Criteria for Negro Art.” Crisis 32 (October): 290–97. Du Bois, W. E. B. 2007. The Souls of Black Folk, ed. Brent Hayes Edwards. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Escola, Marc. 2012. “Le chêne et le lierre: Critique et création”. In Théorie des textes possibles, ed. Marc Escola, 7–18. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Foucault, Michel. 2001. Fearless Speech, ed. Joseph Pearson. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Glatzer, Nahum N., ed. 1961. Franz Rosenzweig: His Life and Thought. New York: Schocken. Honneth, Axel. 1995. “The Fragmented World of Symbolic Forms: Reflections on Pierre Bourdieu’s Sociology of Culture.” In The Fragmented World of the Social, ed. Charles W. Wright, 184–201. Albany: State University of New York Press. Honneth, Axel. 2003. “Redistribution as Recognition: A Response to Nancy Fraser,” trans. Joel Golb and James Ingram. In Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange, ed. Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth. London: Verso. Honneth, Axel. 2009. Pathologies of Reason: On the Legacy of Critical Theory, trans. James Ingram. New York: Columbia University Press. Jefferson, Thomas. 1984. Writings, ed. Merrill D. Peterson. New York: Library of America. Keene, Webb. 2015. Ethical Life: Its Natural and Social Histories. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Parham, Jason. 2015. “Making Peace with the Chaos: A Conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates.” Gawker, July 15. Park, Robert E. 1928. “Human Migration and the Marginal Man.” American Journal of Sociology 33: 881–93. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 2000. “The Reveries of the Solitary Walker.” In Collected Writings, ed. Christopher Kelly, trans. Charles E. Butterworth, 8:1–90. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. Schmitt, Lars. 2016. “Bourdieu Meets Social Movement.” In Social Theory and Social Movements, ed. Jürgen Roose and Hella Dietz, 57–74. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Schulz, Kathryn. 2015. “The Moral Judgments of Henry David Thoreau.” New Yorker, October 19.

Personal Pronouns and Political Protest 165  Shakespeare, William. 1998. “King Lear.” In Complete Works, ed. Richard Proudfoot, Ann Thompson, and David Scott Kastan, 631–68. Walton-on-Thames, England: Thomas Nelson. Shklar, Judith. 1993. “Obligation, Loyalty, Exile.” Political Theory 21, no. 2: 181–97. Swann, William B., et al. 2012. “When Group Membership Gets Personal: A Theory of Identity Fusion.” Psychological Review 119, no. 3: 441–56. Thomä, Dieter. 2012. “Varieties of Belonging: Between Appropriation and Familiarization.” In Social Capital, Social Identities: From Ownership to Belonging, ed. Dieter Thomä, Christoph Henning, and Hans Bernhard Schmid, 7–28. Berlin: De Gruyter. Thomä, Dieter. 2018a. “Seeing It All, Saying It All, Doing It All: Transparency, the Subject, and the World.” In Transparency, Society and Subjectivity: Critical Perspectives, ed. Emmanuel Alloa and Dieter Thomä, 57–84. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. Thomä, Dieter. 2018b. “Philosophy.” In Handbook of Autobiography/Autofiction, Vol. 1: Theory and Concepts, ed. Monika Wagner-Egelhaaf, 111–21. Berlin: De Gruyter. Thomä, Dieter. 2019. Troublemakers: A Philosophy of Puer Robustus, trans. Jessica Spengler. Cambridge: Polity. Thoreau, Henry David. 1906a. Journal I: 1837–1846, ed. Bradford Torrey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Thoreau, Henry David. 1906b. Journal XIV: August 1, 1860–November 8, 1861, ed. Bradford Torrey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Thoreau, Henry David. 1958. The Correspondence, ed. Walter Harding and Carl Bode. New York: New York University Press. Thoreau, Henry David. 1985. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers—Walden; or, Life in the Woods—The Maine Woods—Cape Cod, ed. Robert F. Sayre. New York: Library of America. Thoreau, Henry David. 2001. Collected Essays and Poems, ed. Elizabeth Hall Witherell. New York: Library of America. Walzer, Michael. 1987. Interpretation and Social Criticism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Walzer, Michael. 2002. The Company of Critics: Social Criticism and Political Commitment in the Twentieth Century. New York: Basic. West, Cornel. 2017. “Ta-Nehisi Coates Is the Neoliberal Face of the Black Freedom Struggle.” The Guardian, December 17. -coates-neoliberal-black-struggle-cornel-west.

8 Becoming Anticolonial in Northern Namibia, 1950–1954 The Emergence of Both Crisis and Critique from Everyday Interpretations G R EG O R DO B L E R


he conditions under which we live shape our interpretations of the world, our everyday practices, and our very selves. How, then, is it possible to develop a critique of these conditions—a critique that questions their validity and may enable us to change them? This problem has occupied some of the major strands of political philosophy and the social sciences since at least the early nineteenth century. Rodrigo Cordero (2017) has recently shown how central the idea of crisis has been in analyzing the origin of critique. If conditions shape who we are, it is the precise moment in which they no longer appear as self-evident in which we can begin to emancipate our thinking. “The moment of crisis is the moment at which the world around us becomes problematic and loses its character as a unitary and natural phenomenon. . . . Crisis interrupts the continuity of what appears solid, justified and functional; it opens a breach in meaning and established practices. . . . This is the moment of critique: the moment at which subjects claim the right to interrogate the normativity currently in place” (Cordero 2017, 1). This relation has seemed self-evident to many philosophers. It seems indeed logical that in times of crisis—when patterns of interpretation crumble and the routines of our everyday lives no longer meet with their conditions of success— people start to question old certainties and criticize what no longer appears as impenetrable. We can only really understand that which has already lost its taken-for-grantedness. “The owl of Minerva,” in Hegel’s classic metaphor, “takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering” (Hegel 1896, 12). Yet if we look closely at real-world situations of change, the emergence of critique from crisis becomes more complicated. In situations of undeniable and

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radical crisis—say, in wars, mass displacement, or hunger—people often have to concentrate on more mundane activities rather than theorize about their condition. Absent such radical changes, at what point can we say that “the world around us becomes problematic”? Human beings almost never take each and every aspect of the world around them for granted. How great a change in everyday certainties do we have to see to justify the notion that people indeed “interrogate the normativity currently in place”? These questions have made social science scholars wary of relying on theoretical notions of crisis to explain the emergence of critique. When they have analyzed the relation between crisis and critique, they have more often followed the opposite take: they explained what a crisis is by analyzing the standards of critique that people involved in a given social situation use to describe it. The question then becomes at what point societies, or different groups of people within a society, feel social change so acutely that they define themselves to be in crisis. Critique no longer is the outcome of crisis; it is the precondition for diagnosing a crisis. People always critically evaluate their world. At certain moments, this critical evaluation creates a notion of explicit crisis. Unfortunately, in their efforts to break up preconceived notions of crisis, many social scientists have instead treated the standards of critique that people adopt to identify a crisis as given. The most influential example for this abbreviation is probably the notion of a moral economy implicitly shared by a group. E. P. Thompson, who coined the concept, used it to criticize the idea that the definition of a crisis was clear from the outset (Thompson 1971). Revolts, he argued, are not the outcome of an objective crisis alone—say, of bad crops and hunger—but of the moral evaluation of such a crisis. People do not simply follow stimuli brought by anonymous problems. They evaluate situations and make moral judgments. They do not revolt because they are hungry, but because they see their hunger as unnecessary: as unjustly caused by other human beings who fail to live up to the implicit social contract. Defining the world as problematic is, for Thompson, clearly the outcome of a process of critique. People decide for themselves, using their own moral standards, whether the world is in crisis or just in its usual rotten state. Yet what are the standards of critique people adopt to identify a crisis? Here, some of Thompson’s interpreters (and to some degree Thompson himself) take for granted that a group shares a joint understanding of the world that then becomes the basis for critique. This is most clearly visible in James Scott’s (1977) notion of the “moral economy of the peasant.” Peasants, in Scott’s description, develop a specific moral economy that values stability over profit maximization

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and that is necessary for the long-term survival of the household. Consequently, they evaluate tributary regimes according to what remains to them, not according to what is taken from them. Revolts emerge where taxes or other contributions threaten subsistence itself, not where landlords take the highest proportion of the harvest. In this telling, the moral evaluation that members of a society use to analyze their own situation is more or less a given. It appears as a stable benchmark to which people compare their current situation; if the lords fail to live up to that standard, the peasants will revolt. This statement glosses over two important points. First, it leaves aside the question of how that joint moral standard can emerge in the first place. When do people even start to think about what is just? How do they exchange their views about morality, and when and how does this exchange generate shared and mutually acknowledged moral values? What social process, in short, lies behind the formation of a moral economy? Second, this morality seems to remain curiously unaffected by crisis. Should we really expect that a hunger crisis caused by excessive taxation or theft leaves “the moral economy of the peasant” in place unchanged? Philosophical traditions that explain the birth of critique from crisis may rely on a somewhat simplistic social analysis, but they draw our attention to the fact that our thinking and our moral evaluations can change and are often affected by crisis. Social scientists’ emphasis on the definition of crisis through critique has instead tended—at least in Scott’s influential variant—to neglect to analyze how the moral standards of critique emerge in the first place. In order to come to a sound and socially grounded analysis of the relation between crisis and critique, we have to combine both perspectives. Critique does not simply emerge from crisis, nor does the interpretation of a crisis build on stable underlying standards of critique. Crises and critique historically stand in a dynamic relation to each other; if people use critique to explicitly diagnose a crisis, this may make the world newly problematic and create new possibilities of critique. Analytically, crisis and critique are mutually constitutive of each other. Defining a crisis is a moment of social critique in which socially shared but contested standards of morality emerge; from the definition of a crisis, an uncertainty and openness follow that enable and legitimize new ways of critique. Seeing crisis and critique as mutually constitutive allows us to take a fresh look at their emergence in a given situation; it opens up a field for historical, anthropological, and sociological enquiry. This is the starting point of my contribution.

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I present a case study in the emergence of critique from crisis and of a consensus about crisis from moments of critique. I ask how, in a specific moment of northern Namibian history, a new and partial consensus about morality emerged. After World War II, colonialism as a political and economic system was firmly in place, and ordinary people who so far had had little contact with colonial authorities started to feel its presence in everyday life. Their mundane experiences of exclusion and discrimination made them question their own position in society and in the world at large. In comparing their experiences with those of others, they gained a sense of the systematic value of these experiences as signs of a moral wrong in society. I use two letters as case studies. The second one, a petition to the United Nations written in 1955 by the Anglican priest Theofilus Hamutumbangela, is a matter of public record; it has become part of the minutes of the UN General Assembly. The first, a letter written in 1951 by the young evangelist Cleophas Johannes to the South African administrator, has remained buried in the archive. I trace the history of these letters and their consequences, and I read them as social documents in which local interpretations of a crisis become tangible. Both letters, I argue, had their origin in the joint interpretation of everyday experiences by a group of people. When the commonality of their experiences emerged as an intersubjective, generalized fact that had its source in the outside world, and when people started to call that fact colonial oppression, a moral consensus and a sense of crisis developed in step with each other. In the last part of the article, I use this case study from a particular moment in northern Namibian history to ask what it means to say that “the world has become problematic.” If this statement should have any meaning in real-world situations, I argue, we have to analyze it as a social fact: as the evaluation of the world shared by a group of people, an evaluation that has its own history. I outline five steps that I see as necessary stages in its emergence—necessary, that is, for the social process of interpretation in which both crisis and critique emerge.

NORTHERN NAMIBIA IN THE EARLY 1950S South West Africa (today’s Namibia) became a German protectorate in 1884. In 1915, the country was occupied by South Africa, which then ruled under a League of Nations mandate from 1920 and became the de facto colonizer from the League’s disbanding in 1946 to independence in 1990.

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The new colony’s theoretical borders were roughly fixed at the Berlin Conference in 1884, but it took quite some time before the entire colony was known, let alone administered, in any meaningful manner by the colonizers. Colonial administrative posts, mission stations, and traders were at first few and far between, and mineral extraction remained insular and rather small scale until 1908, when diamonds were discovered in the southern desert. Nevertheless, colonialism soon fundamentally changed the societies living in central Namibia: loss of land to white farmers and “pacification” by police and military troops disrupted inhabitants’ lives and destroyed their living, culminating in the war of 1904–1908, which (after first successes by the uprising inhabitants) quickly turned into brutal suppression by newly arrived German troops and into the first genocide of the twentieth century. Herero, Nama, and Damara societies in the region now declared a white settlement area would never recover from these events and the colonial dispossession linked to them. They were fenced into small and often barren “reserves,” while white farmers took over virtually all farmable land. The northern Namibian region I am concerned with here has a very different, if closely intertwined, history of colonialism. Unlike most of central and southern Namibia, the area the colonial authorities called Ovamboland—an endorheic basin north of the Etosha pan—has good enough soils and sufficient rainfall for sedentary agriculture. At the advent of colonialism, it was settled by Oshiwambo-speaking farmers organized in a number of independent kingdoms surrounded by wilderness. The area, including its largest kingdom, Ukuanyama, was divided by the colonial border between South West Africa and Angola. Over the years until World War II, many “Angolan” Ovakuanyama moved south to South West Africa, settling in the wilderness areas and turning Ovamboland into a densely settled continuous expanse of peasant homesteads (Dobler 2008, 2010, 2014). For the colonial economy, the northern regions became a reserve of “native” labor rather than a settlement area. After the 1904–1908 war, German colonial authorities were afraid of any further disruption in the colony, all the more since they perceived the well-organized and war-trained Ovambo policies as potentially formidable enemies (Eirola 1992). In 1908, they declared the area a native reserve and banned all white travel or settlement; permits were only issued to some scientific travelers and to missionaries and administrators. The first permanent administrative post in the region was only established in 1915 by South Africa. Until after World War II, this area of roughly 200,000 people was governed by two white officials, who managed to integrate the people

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into colonial rule by co-opting the chiefs and headmen into one of the purest examples of indirect rule on the continent. Until roughly 1950, colonialism did not disrupt the lives of most people in the region. They kept their land and their political structures, while gaining support during times of famine (and sometimes help against autocratic rulers). Taxation was kept to a minimum and disguised as contribution to the “tribal trust funds” collected by representatives of the headmen. The effects of colonial rule came through the back door: through the integration of migrant labor into the colonial economy. Unlike in other areas of southern Africa, migrant labor was not originally linked to dispossession or taxation. Young men sought work in the south to gain enough start capital to establish their own homesteads; gains from migrant labor were thus mostly invested in the local economy (Kreike 2004). Colonial authorities were always anxious to avoid any disruption in “tribal” life and any negative image that could keep workers away from the farms and mines on which the colonial economy rested. Over time, however, the hidden faults and the open racism of this system of indirect rule and segregation became more apparent. While young men were welcome as subordinate workers, any settlement in the areas declared as “white” was forbidden. Men were only allowed to leave their region on a pass that mentioned their employer and the duration of their contract (first twelve, later eighteen months). Whoever was checked by the police without a valid pass risked being deported. The pass system created a society that was economically interdependent but socially segregated. More generalized exposure to the colonial economy also made it increasingly clear for whose benefit the system operated. The racism of white employers, and very often their contempt for their workers, became very apparent, and the differences in living standards became more chafing. Wages were good enough to be attractive for young men, but they could not sustain families; the reproduction cost of labor had to be borne by subsistence agriculture. At any moment, a crisis in the colonial economy could leave young men unemployed and deported. Increasing awareness of these contradictions and injustices interlinked with processes of social change in Ovamboland’s society. The old tribal elites around the headmen slowly lost influence and simultaneously allied themselves more closely with the colonial authorities. Young people were more likely to be Christian, and if so, more likely to be educated in mission schools; they knew urban life in the south; and they started to question both colonial and tribal hierarchies. Wage labor slowly turned from a makeshift means to start a living in agriculture into a normalized way of life. This change made the constraints of

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the pass system all the more apparent and let people question both “traditional” and colonial society. In sum, at the end of World War II, most people were still reasonably content with the system and with migrant labor, but the injustices inherent in both started to be felt more acutely. At this moment, South Africa broke with the UN mandate, and the election gains of the National Party in 1948 laid the ground for a radical transformation and modernization of the old system of British-style indirect rule. Apartheid built on the contradictions of economic integration coupled with social and political segregation and turned them into a program. When the new policies reached Ovamboland, they created a new sense of crisis and forced people to develop a new understanding of their role in South West African society. This, in rough outline, is the historic moment in which my two examples are situated. Both examples concern explicit local interpretations of everyday situations as signs of a political, social, and moral crisis. They show the rural origins of the Namibian liberation movement, long before anybody openly called for decolonization, self-rule, and democracy.

CLEOPHAS JOHANNES On June 28, 1951, the farmworker Imanuel Johannes was beaten to death by his employers, the white farmers Gysbert Johannes and Jacobus Coenrad Liebenberg, on their farm Tsammapan in Gibeon district, southern Namibia. Imanuel Johannes had been working on the farm for two years. In October 1951, the two farmers were convicted of culpable homicide and sentenced to a fine of GBP 150 each and twelve months’ imprisonment with hard labor, “suspended for three years on condition that during such period the accused do not commit any crime involving violence.”1 News of Imanuel Johannes’s violent death quickly traveled across the country to Windhoek and to Ovamboland, 1,200 kilometers further north, where Imanuel Johannes had grown up and where his parents and most of his siblings lived. He came from a widely known family. His father, Johannes Iitope, had been ordained in 1937 as one of the earliest Lutheran pastors from the region. Until his death in 1974, he lived and worked in Oshitayi, a Finnish mission station close to Ondangua, the seat of the native commissioner, the king of Ondonga (one of the two major local polities), and the migrant labor compound. His wife Taimi Abraham, Imanuel Johannes’s mother, was among the first and most important

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traders in the region (see Dobler 2014, 73). She was the first woman in the area to learn to drive and buy a car in 1953. Both parents were members of the new, mission-educated modernizing elite, and both were indeed known by everyone in the Ondonga area and beyond. The couple had ten children, all of whom went to mission schools in Ovamboland. Just like their father, all sons started their professional lives as migrant workers, many of them to gain enough money for further schooling. Imanuel Johannes’s death at the age of twenty-three made quite an impression in the region. Deaths of workers from accidents or illness were a common occurrence, but in spite of the often hard and always unjust conditions on the white-owned farms of the south, manslaughter or murder were uncommon (and if they happened, could often be disguised as accidents). In the charged political climate of the early 1950s, when administrative structures changed and apartheid laws were slowly introduced in the area, this new and tangible proof of racism and oppression left people both angry and daunted. The authorities found this more disquieting than the killing itself. “The killing of the deceased,” the native commissioner wrote to the secretary for South West Africa, “had very unfortunate consequences for the labor supply from Ovamboland, in particular from the Ondonga tribal area.”2 The death is still remembered by older people from the area today. In the surviving siblings’ version of the event, their brother used to fight with one of the farmers but always beat him, so the farmer conspired with his brother to kill him.3 For Imanuel’s family, his death became a clear sign of their country’s racial injustice. His parents and his brother Cleophas traveled south to bury him, an experience that marked all three deeply. Cleophas had been born in 1920. He went to mission schools and spent some time as a migrant worker before enlisting in the South African army during “Hitler’s war.” After his return to Ovamboland in 1944, he continued school in Ongwediva and Odibo. He found work in Ondangua’s post office and married in 1946. In 1947, he was for some time employed as a clerk in the native commissioner’s office, but he lost his job when some of his colleagues were involved in the theft of railway parcels.4 He used the money he had earned to travel to South Africa and be trained as an evangelist at Dorothea Mission in Roslyn near Pretoria—a Dutch Reformed Church institution run at the time by Hans van Staden, whose main focus was charismatic tent missions among black South Africans. Cleophas returned to Ovamboland in March 1951, just before his brother’s death. He lived with his parents and became an unpaid assistant to his father,

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preaching in outstations and schools across the region. Both as his parents’ son and as a gifted and well-liked evangelist, he gained renown and acknowledgment. Others soon perceived him as a potential spokesperson for their grievances, since, as a teacher and activist told me about his father, “preachers are never far from politics.”5 The occasion to exercise such spokesmanship soon arrived. In August 1951, a visit by the administrator—the highest official in the country—to Ovamboland conveyed the impression that an authority above the native commissioner might listen to complaints. After the visit, Cleophas Johannes wrote a petition to the administrator on behalf of “us young men,” “the contract workers on farms in South West Africa.” On six pages of handwritten Afrikaans, he lays out complaints against European farmers and the colonial system of oppression. I can only quote a few passages here (in my own translation): You will see the sadness in our faces. Throughout the years, we have always carried this sadness.  .  .  . The sadness we have carried all those years is the “contract” on the farms. . . . [In Ondangua], our honored master Nakale [i.e., Native Commissioner Eedes] tells us: “Whoever is oppressed or harassed by his master should not run away, but should go to the Magistrate or to the Native Commissioner of the place where he is working, where he will find help.” . . . As we went to work on the farms, we went with great joy and peace in our hearts, in the knowledge that the government had appointed people who would help us and defend our interest in all our various trials and tribulations. But when we arrive at work, we no longer know if we should seek the help of the Commissioner in the land in which we work, for instead of help all we receive is murder; instead of being listened to, we are beaten and chased back to the farm. This help of which the Ovambo laborer is told at Ondangua, does the Magistrate of the land in which we work know about it as well? Do they know that they should help us when we have to suffer from our masters on the farms? Now you leave all the difficulties and hardships behind and go to the Office—but there, you are beaten by the Magistrate and his Police, and when he has finished beating you, he sends you back to your boss without even listening to your case. He only listens to the word of the boss. And if the boss on the farm sees that he has sent you back, he is happy, since he knows that he can harrow the Kafir even more and beat him even harder. And when he is tired of the Kafir, he sends him back to Ovamboland. He knows that those

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Ovambos who haven’t worked on farms yet are still very stupid, and he can always send money to get new Kafirs in place of those he has sent away. . . . Without the help of the Magistrate, we have already lost many of our brothers from all the peoples of Ovamboland. Some run away from their masters and are eaten by the wild animals on the road. . . . Some die from thirst in unknown barren woods and deserts while they flee the problems on South West Africa’s farms. Some die in the veld on the long way home to Ovamboland. Some are beaten to death by the Boers on the farms without anyone’s knowledge. . . . If we had help from the Magistrate, we would know that our suffering at the hands of the masters on the farms could no longer be as bad. They would be afraid if they saw that government is helping us. We want to be freed from the contracts on the farms. Let them look after their cattle themselves!! We are really tired of this hidden slavery. How do farm contracts help us? They won’t diminish our land’s poverty. All they give to our people is poverty and desolation.

This powerful statement had very little external effect. It reached the administrator in Windhoek and generated nothing but some administrative back and forth. The secretary for South West Africa sent the letter to Native Commissioner Howard Eedes and asked who had written it. Eedes recognized the writing as that of his former clerk. When he “taxed him” about it, Cleophas “admitted having written the letter.” Eedes downplayed its importance: since Cleophas had “no standing in the Ondonga tribe,” Eedes did “not accept his statement that he had a mandate from some of the young men” and suspected he had been influenced by his mother. In this way, the collective statement was deprived of its value and reduced to the individual voice of a young man and an understandably grieving mother. It could safely be buried in file 50/75/34 and later transferred to the National Archives.6 “He wrote,” as his younger brother told me, “but still nothing was done.”7 Still, the letter is the expression of an internal process whose importance can barely be overstated. It lets us witness social change in the making by showing how people compare their experiences, recognize them as similar, and interpret them as signs of a common situation caused by systemic factors. In this comparison, extraordinary events and everyday occurrences become recognizable as expressions of the same system of oppression. Cleophas Johannes’s letter is thus a sign of self-reflection and of the acknowledgment of commonality—or, in Marxist terms, of the transformation of a group in itself into a group for itself.

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I will come back to this point and to its significance for understanding the relation between crisis and critique in the conclusion. If Cleophas Johannes’s history had finished here, we could see the letter as purely a precursor to anticolonial struggle and interpret it in political terms alone. Yet the letter was just a first step in Cleophas’s public career and his attempts to come to term with a crisis. When he was writing the letter to the administrator, he was already preaching to young people in schools and churches of the area; in the course of the next year, he organized the largest Christian revival movement the region has seen until today. Epapudhuko, the awakening, brought together large crowds of mostly young people in a reformist movement of purification that spread across the entire Lutheran Ovamboland.8 Cleophas built on his training as an evangelist and on Staden’s idea of the tent meeting. Charismatic preaching, moments of togetherness outside of the everyday social structure, and the youthful spirit of a new beginning were important ingredients of the movement. The movement quickly spread through the schools. Young people traveled through the land, on foot or (like Cleophas Johannes) by bicycle, singing, dancing, and loudly praying. While the festive atmosphere helped, the movement’s resonance with the young population was mainly due to its moral character. Cleophas’s preaching, and by extension the entire movement, insisted on forgiveness, purity, and unity. Participants were encouraged to publicly confess their sins and to seek forgiveness for them. Participants stood up during meetings, confessed past sins, and tried to right them, such as by giving back stolen property. The confessions disquieted the tribal establishment. Chief Kambonde (who “went back to bed” when young people woke him up at 7 a.m. with singing and harmonica playing “because I had no interest in it”) found that “epapuzhuko is going badly” and that public confessions “caused trouble amongst the people. That is because the sinner has to say what he has done or thought in the presence of the one he sinned against.”9 For the participants, acknowledging one’s sins and seeking forgiveness did the opposite: instead of generating distrust and conflict, it created a greater and purer unity among them. Their community would no longer be strained by hidden conflicts and sin. Adherents would also become more purely Christian in the conduct of their daily lives: people smashed pots for brewing beer, threw away their tobacco, and burned expensive adornments linked to traditional society and traditional hierarchies. Epapudhuko, like many revival movements, died down almost as quickly as it had spread. Cleophas Johannes continued to travel the country and preach to large crowds until he was sent by the church to Kaokoland in 1955, where he

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worked as both an evangelist and a nurse. After his return to Ovamboland in the late 1950s, he settled down, bought a car, and started a business; his earlier contacts served him well when he continued his political work as an early member of the Ovamboland People’s Organization. He died in 1964. The preacher Cleophas Johannes was indeed never far from politics. It is tempting to interpret Epapudhuko in political terms as well, as a precursor to anticolonial organization. Such an interpretation would not be entirely wrong. Epapudhuko questioned old hierarchies and tried out new ones; young people and many women were in charge. The movement spanned the entire region and cut across the old polities, creating societal links among young people on which the later anticolonial struggle could build. Appreciating the movement for its political organization function alone, however, would misrepresent the actors and their moral judgment. Cleophas’s religious action, just like his political action, was an attempt to grapple with a fundamental crisis—“a crisis of evil,” as we will hear Theofilus Hamutumbangela calling it in the next letter. Something was wrong in the world. It affected the way people lived with one another and the way they could make sense of the world and hold on to their moral personae. This was not a political crisis mistakenly expressed in religious terms; it was a fundamental crisis that affected both the political and the religious sides of people’s selves. Purifying one’s own community and fighting against injustice were two sides of the same coin.

THEOFILUS HAMUTUMBANGELA’S PETITION TO THE UN My second example for the identification of a crisis is much better known (at least in fact, if not in contents). In October 1954 and February 1955, the Anglican priest Theofilus Hamutumbangela wrote two letters to the United Nations. The contents of the letters, which he wrote from Onekwaya in central Ovamboland, were rather down-to-earth for a petition that ended up being treated by the UN General Assembly. In the letter dated February 19, 1955, Hamutumbangela protests against the planned integration of South West Africa into the Union of South Africa and asks that the territory’s future should be decided by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). He then goes on to relate the immediate cause of his protest: The crisis of evil of apartheid is still going up in South West Africa. Ovambo workers returning to Ovamboland had their blankets, looking-glasses, shirts,

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men’s suits, garments of various kinds, bottles of perfumes, toilet soaps, and many others, taken away from them by the policemen at Namutoni [the main border post between the police zone and Ovamboland]. The above mentioned articles were seized by the white policemen at Namutoni because only Europeans should buy such things. In June 1954 to August 1954 many Ovambos were fined two pounds (£2) or even five pounds (£5) for buying an article which should be bought by a white man only. Ovambo workers were threatened and usually were told not to buy certain article reserved for a white man. Therefore, Sir, we appeal to the United Nations in order that we may be freed from the Union Government’s rule at once. We deplore the United Nations to consider our petition favourably, in firm assurance that that help and support will not fail us now in our difficulties. P.S. Let Canada administer South West Africa! We want the Dominion of Canada to do the work. Then the road will be open to us for the Western European civilization which every Non-European youth is raving for.

Hamutumbangela diagnoses a crisis in the local society. This crisis is not of their own making. “We find ourselves involved,” he writes in his first letter of October 5, 1954, “in the very grave tyrannical, oppressive and cruel difficulties . . . as a result of the apartheid (or the Nationalist Party) of South Africa.” A new force is interfering with the normal course of events and disturbing people’s lives in South West Africa. The crisis it creates is not just a functional crisis; it is a moral issue: “a crisis of evil.” The proof of the tyrannical and oppressive nature of the new regime, and the reason that Hamutumbangela wrote his letters, does not lie in theoretical considerations, but in the real-life experiences of workers returning to their families after one or several years working on the mines or farms of central Namibia. In the early 1950s, most migrant workers still imagined living the life ahead of them as respected members of their home village. They saw migrant work as a means to invest at home: in a homestead and a family, in cattle and a plow, sometimes also in a trading store or a small business. Bringing one’s meager earnings home in cash alone did not make much sense. There was little use for cash in the villages; what few shops there were offered little choice and charged much higher prices than those in the south. Instead, wages could be multiplied through barter. Coveted goods bought in the urban centers offered a much higher exchange value than cash if they were traded for agricultural goods or used in local exchange networks to increase one’s social capital.

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Bringing goods home—which often meant carrying them for days when walking home from the bus stop—was an integral part of young men’s strategies to achieve status in their own society by working in the south. Not all goods people took with them were intended for barter. The most coveted goods were those that had use value but could also be used to fashion oneself as a modern and sophisticated person. These included a wide range of objects, from pocket knives and tin cups to books, mouth harps, or bicycles. Their possession could simultaneously denote status and “modernity”—the affiliation with a new elite that was slowly replacing the older, very localized elite based on agriculture alone and linked to the hierarchies of chiefdoms. The new goods came to be seen as a sign of Christianity, sophistication (which meant being in contact with the colonial economy), mobility, and interest in things European, “the Western European civilization which every Non-European youth is raving for.” To buy such things with cash, people had to embed themselves in subordinate roles in the colonial economy. Workers accepted temporary subordination to achieve lasting emancipation, and they saw their ability to purchase coveted goods as the first sign of this emancipation. Being able to buy scented soap or brilliantine, or to give perfume as a present to one’s girlfriend, was a sign that all the toil had indeed resulted in a change of status and that the period of estrangement was finally (if only temporarily) over. The social change that happened here was not lost on the white policemen whose job it was to control returning migrant workers’ luggage and look for stolen items. They had a clear image in mind of what kinds of goods black Namibians would be able to afford and could use in their rural homesteads. Everything else, to them, seemed suspicious. They asked for receipts and, if the worker could not produce one, confiscated the “inappropriate” things as in all likelihood stolen from Europeans.10 The police post at Namutoni was the last stop on the way home. It was the transition point from the colonial space of central Namibia to Ovamboland, where colonialism was so indirect as to become forgotten in daily life. Here, while eagerly anticipating a new and better life, returning migrant workers were once more shown their subordination and irrelevance and were put in their place by young white policemen. They were hit hard by the injustice—in their purses, but also in their pride and their self-confidence. At the very moment they had worked for throughout the year, and which should have brought the proof of their newly gained role in society, they were shown how powerless they were, and their aspirations for

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status were denied and ridiculed. Perfumes and soaps were not for them, but for their betters. Seen through workers’ eyes, it is easy to understand why the police practices at Namutoni made such a stir. In each individual case, they created a sense of moral outrage. Workers shared their experiences, developed a joint understanding of the injustice they had suffered, and tried to achieve redress. But complaints to their headmen went unheard, probably since headmen saw the young men and their new ways as potential threats to their own status. Some of the returning migrant workers approached Eliaser Tuhadeleni, a veteran political activist and later a founding member of the South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), which became the main independence movement and after 1990 the governing party. He wrote a petition to the native commissioner in Ondangua, which remained unanswered. He then tried to involve the churches, a moral power close to the people but with some weight in the colonial administration. He organized a public meeting and invited church leaders to attend. This is where Hamutumbangela heard of the complaints (Namhila 2005, 32). Just like Cleophas Johannes’s father, Johannes Iitope, Reverend Theofilus Hamutumbangela was an important figure in Ovamboland. He was born on February 6, 1917, on the same day that his father’s older brother, Ukuanyama king Mandume, was killed in the fight against the South African army taking over Ovamboland. Mandume had centralized political authority in the area to fight against both Portuguese and South African troops. In the process, he had also curtailed the power of the regional headmen in his council. The disgruntled headmen preferred a distant white native commissioner who was interested in the stability of indirect rule to an impetuous and powerful king, and they entered into an alliance with the new colonial authorities. After Mandume’s death, Ukuanyama was governed by a council of sovereign headmen under the authority of a native commissioner. Mandume’s family was sidelined politically but continued to enjoy considerable status in the local society. Hamutumbangela combined traditional legitimacy with great religious authority. After 1934, he went to school in the Anglican mission in Odibo (established in 1924), qualified as a teacher in 1938, and studied theology at St. Bede’s Seminary in South Africa from 1944 to 1946. He was ordained as a deacon in 1946 and as a priest in 1947, and he became rector of Onekwaya Parish in 1948.11 Building on his elite status in several value systems—a close relative to a mythic king, very well educated, one of the first local priests—Hamutumbangela played a central role in organizing nativist and anticolonial movements.

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He was a central member of the Mandume movement, an anticolonial movement organized by a group of northern Namibians formed in 1943. Here, many of those who would later found the Ovamboland People’s Organization (OPO) and its successor SWAPO met and discussed the politics of colonialism. Unlike SWAPO, this early movement was nativist rather than nationalist. Hamutumbangela’s time in South Africa then brought him into contact with African National Congress (ANC) politics. He became a mentor to a number of those who would later shape Namibia’s independence movement: SWAPO’s cofounder Andimba Toivo ya Toivo lived in his house during his time in Odibo,12 and Sam Nujoma, longtime SWAPO leader and Namibia’s first postindependence president, learned English from him in Windhoek. The Anglican mission in Odibo, on which the Onekwaya parish depended, had a certain history of conflict with the colonial authorities. The conflict lines sharpened when the National Party was elected into power in South Africa. Native Affairs now came under the direct control of Pretoria, and the retiring English-speaking and Anglican native commissioners in Ondangua were replaced by Afrikaans-speaking members of the Dutch Reformed Church. By the early 1950s, senior mission figures had few illusions left about the government. When a new inheritance law incensed the mission in 1952, Mission Director George Dymond wrote to his bishop Cecil Alderson: But past experience of “political” conferences with Native Commissioners in Ovamboland has taught the clearer-headed among them to realize that no attention whatever is paid in practice to objections. Such conferences, in so far as they invite Natives to express their own views, are the merest Eye-Wash. E.g. when the late Major Hahn was ostensibly inviting the Natives to say how they’d like to be governed—the year was, I think, 1946—any Native who got up and expressed an opinion other than the opinion which the Major was there to extract was summarily told to “sit down”—and that before the Native had got far with his speech.

And slightly later, on February 10, 1953, he wrote: I and the older members of our Mission Staff know that vocal protest on the natives’ part has no effect on the Native Affairs Department and on the Administration, at all. The uselessness of vocal protests is recognized by every intelligent native south of Angola and Rhodesia. . . . What effect have your words to [Secretary for South West Africa] Neser had? No remedial effect

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whatever—Neser, after the manner of his despicable kind, has merely bolstered up his bureaucratic Olympianism with characteristic disingenuousness. The Native Affairs Dept. and the Administration makes a show of “consulting the headmen,” a show of inviting every native concerned to express his views and his wishes—but there is no more reality or human sympathy in the business than in a Nazi court inviting Jews to express their wishes or a Russian court inviting offenceless men and women, earmarked for forced labour in arctic Europe and Asia, to express their wishes.13

These words from a relatively powerful and well-connected white mission director make us appreciate the difficulty of finding an outlet for ordinary people’s moral outrage. They had no neutral forum to turn to to voice grievances and find acknowledgment for their moral stance. Local headmen were either complicit with the government and relied on it for their own power, or felt that complaints threatened their own precarious position. The institutions of the colonial state themselves were utterly compromised. Native Affairs staff sometimes followed up on complaints, but only if they could use the voice of a “native” to bolster their own claims towards other branches of government. The judiciary was governed by apartheid laws and often by racial prejudice. This failure by the inhabitants to find a forum for their grievances within the country is where the United Nations came into play. The UN offered a neutral forum where one could at least acknowledge one’s moral position. “It seemed now as if the only hope for the African people was an appeal to the conscience of the world,” as Michael Scott (1958, 232) put it in his recollections. Yet how did a parish priest from a northern Namibian village develop the idea and have the courage to write to an international body in New York? At this point, the history becomes much more international, and postwar world politics come into the picture. South West Africa had become a League of Nations mandate when Germany lost its colonies in 1920. “His Britannic Majesty” was mandated with the territory of South West Africa, “to be exercised on his behalf by the Government of the Union of South Africa.”14 The South African government had to submit yearly reports to the UN, and the mandate could (at least in theory) have been revoked had the mandate administration not met its conditions. After the United Nations was founded in 1945, the League of Nations dissolved itself in April 1946. Both the League of Nations and the UN operated on the premise that mandate territories would pass into UN trusteeship, but there was no legally binding mechanism to ensure that they did. South Africa refused to enter its mandate into the trusteeship system. Instead, the country

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wanted to fully integrate South West Africa into the Union of South Africa. It organized a “referendum” in May and June 1946 in which tribal chiefs spoke for all their subjects under strong guidance from South African Native Affairs officials (and whose conduct in Ovamboland had disillusioned mission director Dymond). The UN did not accept the outcome and asked for an Advisory Opinion by the ICJ. This Opinion, issued in 1950, created a legal limbo: the UN had no legal means to terminate the mandate issued by the dissolved League of Nations, but neither did South Africa have the right to unilaterally change South West Africa’s status. The issue slowly gained much more attention than South Africa had hoped— and than perhaps could have been expected for the affairs of a colonial territory of less than 400,000 inhabitants. South West Africa became a symbol for the role the United Nations could play in the postwar world order. Would the organization be able to assert its moral authority against the opposition of an individual state, or would it remain as toothless as the League of Nations had been? What role would the colonized play in it—hundreds of millions of people who, by design, did not have a voice in this organization of sovereign states? The South West African case was far enough removed from the hard interests of the most powerful countries to become a test case for both issues. Independent Asian and African states found their role as voices for the colonized and for the emerging independence movements. With the rejection of UN trusteeship and slightly later the rise of the National Party and its ideology of apartheid, South Africa became a symbol for reactionary, imperialist racial policies, and South West Africa’s cause became a cause of the free world. To advance this cause, however, delegates in New York needed information about the conditions in South West Africa. South Africa tightly controlled access to the country and managed to prevent a UN fact-finding mission; meanwhile, inhabitants of South West Africa had little knowledge about the UN and no way to reach out to it. Only through several middlemen and global organizations could the two sides finally link up with each other. The link came about through a formidable alliance between Namibian chiefs (most notably Herero chief Hosea Kutako), the British Anglican priest Michael Scott, and several international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). First, Herero chief Frederick Maharero, exiled in Bechuanaland, contacted Michael Scott, who had gained wide renown when he had to spend time in jail for defying South African racial laws by living in a “black” township in Johannesburg. Scott soon saw the issue as an ideal case to protest racial discrimination, and he agreed to travel to South West Africa. He met with a number of Herero, Nama, and Damara leaders and read up on the history of the colony.

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At the request and in the name of Chief Hosea Kutako and others, Scott submitted petitions and a long memorandum to the UN in 1947: densely argued, factually accurate statements of grievances, steeped in both historic detail and political analysis of South African colonialism. They expressed the experiences of people whose society was destroyed and who were driven from their lands for the sake of white colonial settlers, and on whom more than sixty years of genocide, land loss, and colonial oppression had forced a systemic view of colonialism and its workings. Kutako and other Herero leaders also delegated Scott to speak for them at the UN (and indeed paid for his travel by selling cattle). In New York, organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the International League for the Rights of Men helped Scott with office space, funds, and, most importantly, access to influential people—among them Eleanor Roosevelt, who was both a NAACP board member and chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights (see Anderson 2008). These contacts, together with the fact that NAACP chairperson Channing Tobias had become U.S. delegate to the UN, finally facilitated the unprecedented invitation of Chief Kutako to personally address the Fourth Committee in New York. South Africa argued that representatives of colonized peoples had no standing to appear at the UN, and, when the ICJ opined otherwise, did not allow Kutako to leave the country. Again, Michael Scott spoke on his behalf. The petitions and arguments resulting from this cooperation have become rightly famous. They laid the ground for the rejection of South African incorporation plans by the UN General Assembly, for the later ICJ cases against South Africa, for the General Assembly’s sympathy with the Namibian fight for independence, and indeed for the global anti-apartheid movement. They could do so because they bridged two worlds, bringing Namibian lived reality to New York and using international norms to argue for that reality’s exemplary character as evidence of colonial injustice. The petitions also had consequences for domestic politics in South West Africa. Knowledge about them spread and encouraged opposition to apartheid policies. They generated the feeling that one’s moral claims were both justified and effective. When all internal avenues had proven ineffective, petitioning the UN promised to find a power beyond the colonial government that could validate the moral claims and perhaps bring about change. Theofilus Hamutumbangela took it upon himself to follow this road. He wrote his petitions and had them posted from Angola to avoid censure by the South West African authorities. The letters indeed reached their addressee. They did

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not offer a systemic perspective but narrated an acute experience of exclusion, and they were probably much less readable and much less interesting to UN committees than the memoranda Scott had carefully crafted from the position of an expert witness—but they were read and heard and brought an answer. The Committee on South West Africa accepted the letters as petitions, notified the South African government of them, and drafted a resolution adopted by the General Assembly. The resolution “noted that the petitioner raises questions concerning the racially discriminatory measures applied against the Non-European population of the Territory”; the committee decided to inform the petitioner about the territory’s legal position and to send him the committee’s report on conditions in South West Africa (United Nations 1955, 49). The UN’s letter to Hamutumbangela resulting from this resolution was intercepted by the authorities but finally handed out to him. It certainly marked him as a troublemaker in the eyes of the authorities. In December 1955, he was prevented from speaking at a tribal meeting in Ohangwena by Chief Native Commissioner Allen, which provoked loud shouting from the audience.15 This meeting caused his bishop to recall him to Windhoek. The removal was locally perceived as government deportation, and workers in Walvis Bay went on strike in solidarity with him. A letter posted on the message board of a workers’ compound in Walvis Bay asked for money to be collected for the man “who fought for us that the Boers won’t take our things in Namutoni.”16 This episode also led to a second UN petition by a group calling themselves Ukuanyama Tribal Congress protesting Hamutumbangela’s deportation and again asking for the trusteeship over South West Africa to be transferred to Canada. In 1958, when Hamutumbangela continued his political activities in Windhoek, he was again recalled to Odibo, where the authorities now hoped he would be easier to control. Working as a parish priest, he remained involved in politics, becoming a founding member of both OPO and SWAPO. In 1966, when SWAPO started the armed struggle against South African occupation, he was once more imprisoned and, according to his widow, poisoned, leaving him physically and mentally impaired until his death in 1990.17

THE CO-EMERGENCE OF CRISIS AND CRITIQUE As important as they are, the two letters whose history I have presented here are only the accidental remains of a much more general process of interpretation. All over South West Africa, people tried to make sense of their experiences with

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the colonial administration. They did not start from a coherent interpretative framework, but from occurrences in their daily lives. I could multiply the examples of such occurrences. A teacher is forced to take off his glasses when he wants to enter the labor recruiting agency’s shop, seen by the white shop attendant as preposterous in a “native.” The son of a headman is tied up with chicken wire for “loitering” on the porch of another white-owned shop. Migrant workers are mistreated by their employers, lose their wages, or see their clothes destroyed at the veterinary fence separating their home regions from the settler areas. Widows in urban areas are not allowed to continue to live in the house of their deceased husband because they cannot produce a marriage certificate. Peasants who seek their old grazing grounds in Angola during a drought have their cattle impounded. All these are small examples of changes in everyday life that, seen from today, clearly appear as manifestations of colonialism and of the nascent apartheid system. For the people who experienced them, however, this systematic character was not immediately evident. People in Ovamboland rarely came into contact with representatives of the government or of the racist white settler society. Many did not understand all the strange regulations the government introduced and could not immediately differentiate between normal and excessive uses of power. A certain measure of injustice and erratic behavior was to be expected from those in power, whether one called them headmen or native commissioners. When and how did their world become problematic in a way that turned normality into crisis? The letters and the social processes that led to their writing bear witness to the stages of interpretation necessary for the diagnosis of a crisis. In the following, I take a more analytic view and identify five steps though which everyday occurrences turned into socially acknowledged signs that the world had become problematic. I suspect that these steps can be found in most instances of explicit social critique based on the intra-societal interpretation of everyday experiences. (For the sake of clarity, I take the moment of the first interpretation that feeds into the definition of a crisis as the unquestioned baseline, and I present the steps as if they were a unidirectional process starting from scratch. In reality, each experience and each interpretation builds on earlier experiences and interpretations, and each new interpretation can in the future become the basis on which others build.) It all starts with an individual experience of a wrong: bad treatment by employers, say, or the confiscation of a bottle of perfume. Individually, people are soon convinced that the behavior they suffered from cannot be right. They nevertheless have to deal with powerful actors who are quite sure that, yes, we are perfectly within our rights and have acted quite reasonably. This dissonance—which each of us knows from experience—is the first root of critique.

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Second, that dissonance becomes social. Those who suffer unacknowledged injustices—in this case workers on farms or in the mines—seek acknowledgment among their peers. They compare experiences, and they compare evaluations. People always differ in how they assess a particular situation; comparing such assessments leads to a discussion about the standards according to which the actors involved should be judged. In some cases, a strong consensus emerges: this action was indeed wrong, while that other grievance is no real cause for complaint. After thus being socially validated, individual experiences in a third step gain a more systematic dimension. Different people recognize one another’s experiences as similar. They acknowledge one another’s plight and encourage one another’s moral outrage. In this step, the joint interpretation of socially validated individual experiences creates a more and more explicit common moral standard. This standard can be an element of a preexisting moral economy, but it does not have to be; crises often lead to situations that fall outside the existing moral repertoire of a society. Fourth, the group of people who acknowledged one another’s situation and jointly explained it recognize and sometimes organize themselves as a group—in a religious movement just as in a political gathering. Most importantly, the people concerned realize that they are in the same situation and judge their situation according to similar standards. They turn from a group in itself into a group for itself. In the cases I focused on, this step coincided with the delegation of a representative or a spokesperson, but that is not necessary. Whether the resulting social formation is hierarchical or egalitarian, the mere fact that it has such a recognizable inner organization reproduces its distinctness and reinforces its relevance in everyday life. For such a group, fifth, outside acknowledgment of a wrong as typical and as linked to more universal values can play the same role as intra-societal acknowledgment does for individual experience. For northern Namibian workers, UN acknowledgment and finally the international solidarity of the anti-apartheid movement played this role. They did not need global ideas of trusteeship, of universal human rights, or of the right to self-determination in order to recognize that what happened to them was wrong. Faced with the denial by those in power, they needed these ideas to find acknowledgment for what they knew was right, and to keep up hope in the face of overbearing power.18 The outcome of this process is, in both cases I mentioned, a piece of explicit critique: a letter that defines a crisis, lays out the moral standards of judgment, cites the concrete violation of these standards, and suggests a way to end them.

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In some cases, such a document then becomes the basis of a new explicit consensus and influences the emergence of a social movement—a new institution, which might in itself become the beginning of a new institutional order. Hosea Kutako’s and Michael Scott’s petitions, for example, became one founding document of the global anti-apartheid movement—just like the South African Freedom Charter adopted by the Congress of the People in Kliptown only three months after Hamutumbangela’s petition did. Such powerful documents have played an important role for many social movements and have shaped the explicit form their consensus has taken. In consequence, they have often emerged as reference points for the movements themselves and for their historians. It would be wrong, however, to locate the origins of critique in such canonical texts. The conditions of their relevance lie further back: in the mundane activity of socially interpreting everyday experiences and in the gradual emergence of a new standard of moral economy from such interpretation. New standards of moral economy are often developed from a sense of involuntary change, and they include the definition of a crisis that caused such changes and that should be resolved. In 1950s Namibia, the dominant framework in relation to which such an explicit moral economy was developed—and consequently the dominant definition of the crisis—came to be colonial oppression. From at least the mid-1960s to independence in 1990 and beyond, the social, political, and economic life in the country was organized around this theme. In 1952, such a consensus had not yet developed. The religious movement Epapudhuko is a reminder that moral critique can take many different paths. Its definition of the crisis and its ideas of the ways to resolve it were starkly different from the ones proposed by the nascent independence movement, even though both originated in the same everyday experience to live through “a crisis of evil.” Crisis and critique, I have argued, are not in a unidirectional relation. To say that crisis enables critique necessitates a definition of the crisis: of the point at which the world becomes problematic. To say that critique engenders a notion of crisis, on the other hand, necessitates an analysis of the occasions at which that critique starts, and of the ways it takes until it crystallizes in the explicit diagnosis of a crisis. Only if we combine both perspectives can we understand the relation between crisis and critique. The world is always problematic to people. When they develop a joint and explicit understanding that the world’s problematic character has become unusual and general, we are justified in calling the situation a crisis. Diagnosing this crisis (and freshly perceiving the prevailing conditions in light of that diagnosis) then allows the people involved to give new meaning to their situation.

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It allows them to develop implicit and explicit critiques of the world as it has become. Then, indeed, can critique emerge from a world that has become problematic, and new things may arise from the old.

NOTES 1. National Archives of Namibia (NAN), SCW (Supreme Court Windhoek), 1/1/130. 2. NAN, SWAA (South West Africa Administration) 453, 50/75/34, undated report by Secretary for South West Africa to the Executive Council; original in Afrikaans. 3. Unless otherwise indicated, the information on Imanuel and Cleophas Johannes is based on an interview with their brother Mlanduleni Johannes in Ondangua, November 23, 2014. 4. NAN, SWAA 453, 50/75/34, letter from Native Commissioner Eedes to chief native commissioner, October 6, 1952. 5. Interview with Phillemon Naanda, November 14, 2014. 6. NAN, all SWAA 453, 50/75/34. 7. His brother told me that Cleophas also wrote an English version of the letter that he sent to church groups in Finland and Britain, but I have so far not been able to trace these copies. 8. McKittrick 2002, 245–64, extensively covers the revival movement, using oral history interviews mainly from western Ovamboland. Our sources and interpretations complement each other without contradicting each other. 9. NAN, NAO (Native Affairs Ovamboland) 58, 7/3/1, as cited by McKittrick 2002, 250. 10. See Johannes Amwaalwa’s recollections as told to Ellen Namhila (Namhila 2005, 32). 11. Biographical notes by the teacher and catechist Petrus Nandi, Odibo Mission Archives. 12. Personal communication by Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, August 20, 2012. 13. Letters by George W. Dymond to Bishop Cecil Alderson, late December 1952 and February 10, 1953, Odibo Mission Archives. 14. Preamble to the mandate. See Slonim 1973: 369. 15. Handwritten note by Hamutumbangela, Odibo Mission Archives. 16. NAN, BAC 6 HN, 1/9/2/3, Disturbanes Walvis Bay. 17. “Ondjokonona tai etwa komufi kadi meme Ulalia yaHamutumbangela” (“Eulogy by the widow Mrs. Ulalia Hamutumbangela”), undated, probably written down in 1990 by Petrus Nandi, Odibo Mission Archives. 18. Using universal norms to judge nonuniversal experiences always comes at a price. Judging one’s own suffering in the light of universal norms can give discursive powers to one’s position, but it implies giving up control of one’s moral claims. (This difference, to me, is the origin of Michael Walzer’s [1987] differentiation between internal and external critique.) In their long struggle for democracy and freedom, Namibians had ample occasions to learn this truth, but that is outside of the scope of this article. Cleophas’s letter used a different strategy to find outside acknowledgment: he compared the professed norms of the administration with its deeds and pointed out the contradiction between both. Instead of seeking a different set of moral rules, he referred to moral rules shared by both the administration and the people.

190 Intellectual Engagements REFERENCES Anderson, Carol. 2008. “International Conscience, the Cold War, and Apartheid: The NAACP’s Alliance with the Reverend Michael Scott for South West Africa’s Liberation, 1946–1951.” Journal of World History 19, no. 3: 297–325. Cordero, Rodrigo. 2017. Crisis and Critique: On the Fragile Foundations of Social Life. New York: Routledge. Dobler, Gregor. 2008. “Boundary-Drawing and the Notion of Territoriality in Pre-colonial and Early Colonial Ovamboland.” Journal of Namibian Studies 3: 7–30. Dobler, Gregor. 2010. “On the Border to Chaos: Identity Formation on the Angolan-Namibian Border, 1927–2008.” Journal of Borderlands Studies 25, no. 2: 22–35. /08865655.2010.9695759. Dobler, Gregor. 2014. Traders and Trade in Colonial Ovamboland, 1925–1990: Elite Formation and the Politics of Consumption Under Indirect Rule and Apartheid. Basel, Switzerland: Basler Afrika Bibliographien. Dugard, John. 1973. The South West Africa/Namibia Dispute. Berkeley: University of California Press. Eirola, Martti. 1992. The Ovambogefahr: The Ovamboland Reservation in the Making: Political Responses of the Kingdom of Ondonga to the German Colonial Power, 1884–1910. Rovaniemi, Finland: Historical Association of Northern Finland. Hegel, Georg W. F. 1896. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, trans. S. W. Dyde. London: George Bell. First published 1820. Kreike, Emmanuel. 2004. Re-Creating Eden: Land Use, Environment and Society in Southern Angola and Northern Namibia. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. McKittrick, Meredith. 2002. To Dwell Secure: Generation, Christianity, and Colonialism in Ovamboland. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Namhila, Ellen. 2005. Kaxumba KaNdola: Man and Myth. Basel, Switzerland: Basel Africa Bibliographies. Scott, James. 1977. The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Scott, Michael. 1958. A Time to Speak. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Slonim, Shlomo. 1973. South West Africa and the United Nations: An International Mandate in Dispute. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Thompson, Ernest P. 1971. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century.” Past and Present 50: 76–136. United Nations. 1955. Report of the Committee on South West Africa to the General Assembly (UN Official Records: Tenth Session, Supplement No. 12 (A/2913)). New York: United Nations. Walzer, Michael. 1987. Interpretation and Social Criticism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

9 How Do Technocrats Address Crises? From Structural to Humanitarian Approaches to Crises in Latin American Developmentalism AL DO MARC HE SI


s I write this, the world is suffering from a health crisis of global dimensions, the implications of which will surely lead to an international recession. In my country, Uruguay, the technical experts in the government’s senior staff refuse to take action. These experts, for the most part trained under the neoliberal climate of the 1990s, do not know how to react to a crisis that in other parts of the world has prompted an extraordinary resurgence of the state in just one week. The crisis shows how certain paradigms for understanding social and economic life have come crashing down. It is in the midst of this crisis that I set out to write from a historical perspective about the ways in which Latin American technocrats have approached the concept of crisis throughout the twentieth century. My aim is to gain insight into how the stable and supposedly neutral language of technocracy is articulated in times of crisis. The relationship between technocratic discourse and crises has been reciprocal, as technocrats have contributed to thinking, describing, and explaining crises, while crises have in turn challenged the language of technocrats. In this sense, technocrats can help us understand the traditional relationship between critique (as an expert discourse) and crisis (as a social process). At times, the role of technocrats has involved critique, but at other times technocrats have been targeted by social criticism that has led them to rethink their own paradigms regarding crises. This article examines a concrete experience in Latin American technocracy, namely, developmentalism. Developmentalism understood as an intellectual movement, formed for the most part by economists and sociologists, was born under the direction of Argentine economist Raul Prebisch under the aegis of

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the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), a United Nations agency created in 1948. With a structuralist approach to the world economy and an industrialist view, this movement became a milestone for the Third World in the context of the Cold War. The community created by this movement became an increasingly authoritative voice in the region’s international bodies, as well as among local technocratic staffs.1 Although it developed a language that was neutral and removed from the processes of social and political protests, it entailed a critique of the global order of the Cold War and proposed development models that were open to—even if at times they clashed with—the demands for social rights that were being raised by Latin American societies in the 1950s. Developmentalism also involved a continent-wide community that drew Latin American technocrats from under the sway of the United States and established a certain regional identity. This community also had specific social and political characteristics. Studies conducted in Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay show that these technocrats were members of these countries’ emerging middle classes, which were for the first time gaining access to and influence in state institutions traditionally monopolized by oligarchic sectors. Their own background also revealed an optimistic belief in the possibilities for social upward mobility that certain forms of capitalism could offer. Finally, in terms of politics, these sectors were not affiliated with any view in particular, but they did share a concern for moderation and inclusion. These political values were also key to the adoption of a neutral language that was removed from social events, thus allowing these technocrats to survive the increasingly polarized conflicts waging in the world of politics. Politics were viewed by them as dangerous scenarios marked by irrational passions, and they further associated political activity with backward practices connected with the weight that patronage and caudillismo had in the region’s governance. In this sense, they felt they had to remain above that world and thus took an approach that was somewhat elitist.2 This set of elements helps us think about these technocrats as a specific epistemic community, in the sense of “networks of experts who persuade others of their shared causal beliefs and policy goals by virtue of their professional knowledge.”3 This epistemic community emerged at the outset of the crisis of the so-called import substitution model in the 1950s, a crisis that prompted a cycle of reflection on the state of affairs of Latin American countries, accompanied by proposals for change aimed at overcoming their condition of being underdeveloped and dependent nations, with a focus on furthering industrialization models through planning and programming. Developmentalism saw its greatest

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expansion in the 1960s, with its efforts to modernize states that had been showing critical signs since the previous decade. In 1982, the foreign debt crisis established a definite trend toward more open and neoliberal models that forced that community of experts to adjust and adapt, with several of its members trying to translate their concerns regarding the role of the state and social rights so that they fit the new adverse climate dominated by neoliberalism. In Latin America, technocracy had begun to attract particular academic attention as of the 1990s, when the cast of technocrats played a key role in the so-called liberal reforms associated with the Washington Consensus. Most prominent among these were economists, as in the previous decades it had been these experts who were at the center of public policies, with economics favored over the rest of the social sciences in the design of public policies.4 But, as Silva has noted, technocrats had, in fact, been involved in major aspects of state design throughout most of the twentieth century in Latin America.5 Recent academic studies have focused on the developmentalist community. Biographical works and studies on local political history and intellectual history reveal the influence this community had during the period that stretches from the attempts at constructing certain forms of limited welfare states in the 1950s to their downfall in the 1980s and 1990s. Some works have shown the subjective effects of social and political crises on certain experts. In a biography of Raul Prebisch, Edgar Dosman traces the ways in which the 1929 crisis challenged Prebisch and how the effect it had on him is key for understanding his later work in ECLAC.6 Ricardo Lopez Pedrero has studied how the technical logic of middle-class professionals was put into question by the polarization of the 1960s in Colombia and led to the political radicalization of some of them.7 In this article, through the examination of a specific case, I will build on what has been developed in previous approaches. By tracing the work of a renowned Uruguayan developmentalist, sociologist, and Christian Democratic politician, Juan Pablo Terra, in two Uruguayan crises (1955 and 1982), I will show the relationship between crisis and critique at specific moments in the history of developmentalism in Latin America.8 Through a review of Terra’s intellectual career in the context of those two crises, I will attempt to reflect on the relationship between each crisis and the experts’ discourse. On the one hand, I will examine the moment in which, from their position as experts, these technocrats developed a critical questioning of the time they were living in and constructed an explanation for the crisis. That place of enunciation allowed the experts to gain a privileged position in the public sphere. But, on the other hand, at different

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times the social processes triggered by the crisis generated political and cultural dynamics that challenged the place of the experts. In the two crises studied here, we will see the tension between the experts’ critical questioning of the social state of affairs and the social questioning of the experts in contexts of crisis. By studying the way in which that tension was addressed in two different crises, I seek to gain a more complex understanding of the relationship between technocrats and the processes of crisis. In this sense, I propose expanding the limits of what has been traditionally understood as technocratic discourse. Although it has been seen as an elitist discourse associated in particular with the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s and 1990s, I am interested in taking a more nuanced approach to that notion to show other sides that are more positive and emancipatory of that community, but also to recognize the limitations it faced when implementing policies in contexts of crisis.9

THE TRAINING OF A TECHNOCRAT: FROM CHRISTIAN HUMANISM TO SOCIOLOGY OF DEVELOPMENT In 1947, Louis-Joseph Lebret, a French intellectual and priest and founder of what is known as Christian humanism, visited Uruguay as part of his second tour of Latin America. There he met a group of middle-class Catholic students who were rethinking the charity work carried out by religious institutions at the time. After coming into contact with Lebret, the group created Teams for the Common Good, an amateur organization that gathered together both students and young professionals who began conducting fieldwork in poor rural villages and implementing community projects to improve living conditions in the countryside. Lebret’s words regarding the methodology of social work were clear: “You should create a network of grassroots teams, always integrating urban and agricultural workers. If you are only among intellectuals, they will soon derail or become a closed chapel.”10 At that time, the country was enjoying a period of relative prosperity. Lebret described Uruguay as “France, but the rich France of 1926–28. Life is cheaper here than at home and with higher wages. . . . Very few people are badly dressed. . . . There is a radical feeling of freedom. Nothing of the anxiety that hurts Brazil so badly. There are healthy men, because they are well-housed and well-fed.”11 Uruguay was beginning to develop a limited welfare state, characterized by a strongly regulated economy. The pillars of that state included the tripartite wage bargaining system created by law in 1943; the system of family allowances

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that sought to level the income of working-class families unable to meet their basic needs; the National Subsistence Council, which regulated price control aspects as well as the provision of basic necessity items; and finally, the expansion of the public education and health systems.12 The term “limited” indicates this welfare system’s difficulty in expanding territorially. Its implementation was primarily urban. Initially, rural workers were explicitly excluded from certain benefits, and when these were later granted to them, the degree to which they enjoyed those benefits in practice was far from what was legally stipulated on paper.13 In the 1950s, poverty was not a leading concern for the governing center-left party known as Batllismo (after José Batlle y Ordoñez, the proponent of its key principles), and neither was it a main issue on the agenda of other political sectors for the most part inspired by modernizing and developmentalist views. It was believed that the process of industrial modernization would reduce the problems that affected urban peripheries. While these sectors also acknowledged that there was still a remnant of rural poverty, they expected it to gradually disappear as agricultural production was modernized. Both conservatives and Catholic intellectuals, however, addressed the issue of rural poverty differently. In general, the Batllista model was blamed for poverty conditions in the countryside, because—these critics said—the model appropriated the surplus income from agricultural activities, directed investments to the cities, and neglected rural popular sectors. The Achilles heel of the Batllista model, which was industrialist and furthered a strong social expansion of the state, was that it depended on the revenue obtained from the foreign sales of the agro-exporting sectors, which were the model’s leading political adversary. Initially, the Teams for the Common Good were part of this conservative Catholic tradition that denounced the Batllista government’s failure to address the problems of the countryside, including rural poverty. Their project consisted of studying the living conditions of poor rural communities and using the data they gathered to implement solidarity measures. In that context, the teams developed relatively professional surveys (although conducted by amateurs)—the first ever of their kind in Uruguay—to assess the social conditions of low-income sectors in the country’s rural areas. After completing half a dozen surveys, the teams became more professionalized. In 1955, they carried out a survey of families in Montevideo with funding and an IBM computer provided by the church. After that, the nascent social sciences in Uruguay looked to the Teams for the Common Good as a reference, and the first social stratification surveys that were conducted in the University of the Republic drew on their experience.

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One of those teams was led by a young architecture student named Juan Pablo Terra, who was the son of Horacio Terra Arocena, a leader of the main conservative Catholic party, the Civic Union (Unión Cívica). In the late 1940s, a generational conflict had created a rift in the party, with young Catholic activists questioning the older generation’s lack of concern for social issues and its neglecting of the Maritainian view of these matters. Young Terra was one of the more vocal critics in this sense. In 1949, he penned a critical essay on the sins of capitalism that was featured in the Catholic newspaper Tribuna Católica. “Just as Political Economy has called for a depersonalized society, an intense moral attitude calls for a Human Economy,” he wrote.14 In 1952, Terra clashed with other Catholic leaders, who, writing in the newspaper El Bien Público, accused him of being a communist because he had supported a strike staged by meatpacking workers. That same year, his interest in social and labor issues led him to write a letter to church authorities asking for permission to read “forbidden books . . . in particular, communist books.”15 As one of the main leaders of the teams, he expressed concern over the place experts should occupy with respect to popular sectors. In several of his writings, Terra was critical of the relationship between experts and these sectors, but he nonetheless acknowledged that experts had a necessary role to play in the design of public policies that would benefit the masses. Ultimately, we believe technical experts must help the people fight against the elements of chaos and rapacity that exist in today’s cities; but it is up to the people to steer technical experts away from the snobbery, rationalism, or frivolity they can be prone to. These concepts may perhaps sound harsh at a time when the world is threatening to march toward technocracy, but we believe that they are actually at the very core of democratic conviction.16

As he moved forward in his training as an architect and a sociologist (selftaught, as the country did not yet offer a university program in sociology), he sensed a distance between the research he pursued in connection with Lebret’s human economy and the disciplinary approaches developed in the First World. In his correspondence with theologian Ricardo Cetrulo, Terra described U.S. sociology as superficial and French sociology as abstract. He saw Lebret’s human economy as being “much closer to the modern efforts in the science of ‘development’ than to university sociology.”17 This connection between the idea of human economy held by progressive Catholic thinking and the idea of development in vogue in Latin America explains Terra’s future commitment to the sociology of

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development and his evolution as an expert. In the late 1950s, under the leadership of Lebret and building on the Teams for the Common Good experience, the Latin American Human Economy Center (Centro Latinoamericano de Economía Humana, or CLAEH) was established. CLAEH had a regional presence, with chapters in several countries (including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru), and its activities were aimed at promoting the concept of human economy. These ventures, which were initially halfway between volunteer efforts and professional work, gradually developed into what could be described as Christian think tanks associated with developmentalism in the region.

FROM THE TECHNICAL TO THE POLITICAL: THE TECHNOCRATIC RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS OF THE IMPORT SUBSTITUTION INDUSTRIALIZATION MODEL Starting in the second half of the 1950s, Uruguay entered a long period of crisis and stagnation associated with what in much of Latin America was known as the downfall of the import substitution industrialization models.18 The economic crisis was triggered primarily by the drop in the prices of livestock exports. The social welfare state and the industrialist model were underpinned by agricultural and cattle production, and when international beef and wool prices fell, the state was left with fewer resources for its social policies and industries saw their protections dwindle. The consequences of the crisis unfolded throughout the 1960s and part of the 1970s, sparking an inflationary process that led to a deterioration of real wages and increasing unemployment and that thwarted the expectations of upward social mobility that had been raised in earlier decades. In addition, rural poverty grew, but so did urban poverty, as cities could no longer receive and integrate rural migrants as they had done in the previous decade. The debates around the issue of poverty reflected the rise in urban poverty that was evidenced by the sprouting of “cantegriles,” as shantytowns were locally known.19 These informal settlements had already been addressed in the surveys conducted in Montevideo in 1956 by the Teams for the Common Good. In the intellectual climate of the late 1950s, the idea of economic crisis was incorporated into other notions, such as moral crisis, political crisis, crisis of the Batllista model, and even crisis of the country’s viability. In that context, the Batllistas lost the 1958 elections to their traditional adversary, the National Party, which had strong ties to the rural world and to conservative sectors and pursued a more liberal economic agenda. One of the concerns

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of the new government was the modernization of the countryside. To further its goal of rural modernization, it decided to commission a research project, and, wary of the public university, which was a stronghold of Batllista supporters and left-wing sectors, it turned to the recently formed CLAEH team led by Juan Pablo Terra. The project, which was backed by the French consultancy CINAM, was a major step forward for Terra’s group in its transition from a community of professionals working as volunteers to a team of experts connected with the government’s assessment activities. The team presented its findings in a report published in 1963 under the title Situación económica y social del Uruguay rural (Economic and Social Conditions of Rural Uruguay). It was the result of sampling and surveys conducted throughout rural Uruguay. The work involved analyzing the economic aspects connected with the country’s stagnated production and the social aspects connected with the dire working conditions of rural laborers and small farmers, as well as the conditions of abject poverty of the rural populations that lived around large agricultural and cattle establishments. Although the information was backed by all the quantitative instruments that modern techniques established as necessary for a study of this kind, and it was presented in the requisite neutral and scientific language, many government officials were baffled by this long report. It was the first report written by experts that posited that the problems of the agricultural world had to do with structural issues associated with the unequal distribution of land ownership. The abject poverty of rural populations had nothing to do with cultural and/or moral aspects; rather, it was connected with how ownership was distributed and with the harsh working conditions that rural laborers were subjected to. This rural poverty had a major impact on cities, as under such conditions the countryside was expelling an increasingly greater number of people to the cities. The main finding of the study was that in order to solve the social problems of the countryside, and even some of the social problems of the cities, and overcome the crisis, an agrarian reform was needed, one that would guarantee better living conditions for rural laborers while at the same time enhancing productivity. During that same period of the National Party administration, Terra was hired as an expert for other projects. In 1959, he received a commission to conduct a census of persons affected by the floods that devastated much of the country that year; and from 1961 to 1964 he headed the urban planning and housing area of the Investment and Economic Development Committee (Comisión de Inversiones y Desarrollo Económico, or CIDE). This committee marked a milestone in the history of these experts and the role they played in the design of public policies in

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Uruguay. Financed with funds from the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and the Alliance for Progress, the committee was charged with assessing the situation of Uruguay to provide a diagnosis and draft “scientific” plans for the country’s future. The committee gathered a significant number of the academics who were working in the fields of economics, sociology, demography, and geography in Uruguay. Among other things, the committee set out to conduct a national census, as the country had not had one in almost fifty years, with the last one dating back to 1908. The new census enabled the development of a national accounting system in line with the system defined by the United Nations in 1953. The CIDE produced two seminal documents: the 1963 Estudio económico del Uruguay (Economic Study of Uruguay), a general diagnosis of the crisis faced by the country at the time; and Plan Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social, 1965–1974 (1965–1974 National Economic and Social Development Plan), which contained recommendations for reforms. These included structural reforms (agrarian, foreign commerce, banking, health, education, and housing reforms), with an emphasis placed on the need for them to be implemented with production growing at a certain rate and accompanied by an adequate distribution of wealth, ensuring that the population enjoyed such social rights as the rights to employment, working the land, housing, health, and social security, as well as a fair distribution of opportunities throughout the national territory. At first, this committee had a relatively small impact. Terra would later recall that the recommendations that had to do with enhancing economic rationality and efficiency were the only ones that were taken into account by subsequent governments, while the aspects connected with social and even economic development, which were more progressive in nature, were never adopted. While some of these aspects that had to do with transformations in the economic structure were ignored by the conservative governments that followed, they were taken up by the central-left agenda and the labor movement. In 1965, an initiative known as the Congress of the People (Congreso del Pueblo) was created, gathering a wide range of social movements and trade unions that drafted a program for change similar to the CIDE proposal, but in a more radical version. That program was the basis for the left-wing coalition formed in 1971: the Broad Front (Frente Amplio). To a certain extent, the rise of a critical movement connected with a new intellectual left, growing labor mobilizations, the political radicalization of left-wing and center parties, and a disruptive rhetoric in the student movement gave the CIDE developmentalist proposals a more radical thrust. In addition, the government’s unwillingness to implement the actions

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that were aimed at modernizing Uruguay but that at the same time entailed a redistribution of wealth also raised questions among the technical experts who had honestly believed in that effort and had expected the government to follow the CIDE recommendations. From his participation in the CIDE experience, Terra acquired a more specific knowledge on the problem of housing. In the context of the crisis, this issue had become particularly dramatic due to the growth of informal settlements in the urban periphery in the mid-1950s. In 1966, after his work at the CIDE, he took up a position as officer in charge of housing in a United Nations program in Brazil. Although the CIDE proposals were not implemented, Terra returned to certain aspects of those proposals in his later activity as legislator. In 1967, Terra ran successfully for national congress as a candidate of the newly formed Christian Democratic Party of Uruguay, and once elected he presented a bill for a National Housing Act. The aim of this law was to establish mechanisms for coordinating public, private, and civil society ventures toward developing a housing plan that would provide houses for low-income sectors through subsidies and credits. While the implementation of that law had a number of limitations, it paved the way for the introduction of housing cooperatives as a mechanism for people to build their own houses. That possibility channeled a major social movement that would play a key role in the construction of housing for low-income families over the following decades and that was significantly active in the struggle against the dictatorship in the 1970s and in the defense of human rights in the 1980s. In addition to his work as an expert, in the 1960s Terra built a political career as leader of the new Christian Democratic Party, which represented a shift toward the center-left in the world of Catholic politics. In the context of the economic crisis and the growing social unrest that as of 1967 was met with an increasingly authoritarian response, this party would lean more and more to the left, eventually proposing the creation of an electoral front that would group together all the left-wing parties in the country, including the Communist Party. Terra would become one of the main leaders of that coalition. During this period, alongside his political activism, he continued to work as an expert, and he was well aware of the tension between the two roles. In 1969, after being elected to congress on the Christian Democratic ticket, Terra wrote his seminal book, Mística, desarrollo y revolución (Mysticism, Development, and Revolution), where he discussed the dilemmas faced by experts connected with the Christian tradition at times of political and economic crises such as the one Uruguay was experiencing. The book was published in Chile and Ecuador and became a major reference work for Christian developmentalists in Latin

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America. In that book, Terra argued against certain conceptualizations regarding developmentalism that criticized it for its depoliticized nature: There is a developmentalism that deserves to be decried as anathema. It is the naïve and crafty developmentalism, which wants to make us believe that development, conceived in a schematic way (for example, as an increase in per capita income), is a goal in itself, sufficient and satisfactory for all, to be questioned by no one and accepted by all without discussing other values. And it is also the developmentalism of those who underestimate social conflicts, who do not see oppression, domination, the play of interests, or pressures, and simply try to arrange technical variables, expecting social progress. . . . They do not believe in the need for sudden and deliberate transformations in relations; they do not believe in the need to change structures that they consider idle and even harmful. Some remain on the Mount Olympus of specialists and are satisfied with drafting reports that will never be implemented and programs that will be blocked by forces they are unaware of.20

And he proposed possible ways for bridging the distance between the developmentalism of experts and radical political action: The last meanings [in the dictionary] for the word “revolution” are especially relevant for the issue of social development: the meanings that denote profound transformations or modifications of the social structure. What matters for this issue are the resisted changes in the social structure, the changes that radically modify society in crises and conflicts similar to those of the natural world. But what matters even more is a change in social structure that is triggered deliberately as a political action, as an expression of human desire, of political will, which, when the social process is intelligently and consciously conducted, entails a swift transformation aimed at breaking the stranglehold, overcoming the crisis, or simply shifting direction to move toward a more desirable direction for social growth.21

Terra’s experience in the 1960s gives us a glimpse of the path taken by several technocrats of that generation. In the early 1960s they drafted proposals that they viewed as strictly technical and that fit what international agencies and states demanded for the attainment of modernization and development. Paradoxically, those critical inputs were resisted by those very states and international agencies, as they entailed rhythms of social change that certain sectors were not willing to

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accept, but they were incorporated by political and social movements as elements for thinking about an economic and social crisis that had structural dimensions. The technical nature of these proposals showed the limitations of the expert discourse in effectively furthering such measures. The growing social and intellectual unrest of the 1960s operated as a critique of the supposed neutrality of the experts’ discourse. Several technocrats felt challenged by and responded to that critique. Terra became politically active, contributed to shifting social Christian thinking to the left, and in 1969 ultimately posited the possibility of reconciling the concept of development with the idea of revolution. This possibility of technocrats and radical politics coming together with the aim of overcoming the structural crisis faced by Uruguay would be cut short by the 1973 coup d’état that brought to power a civilian and military dictatorship that would last twelve years. In a country with a population of just 3 million people, the dictatorial regime imprisoned some 10,000 political dissidents. It forcibly disappeared 195 individuals. Dozens of media outlets were shut down. Thousands of teachers and professors (at the elementary, secondary, and university levels) were laid off. One of the main targets of the dictatorship’s repressive actions was the University of the Republic, with an entire generation of social scientists (economists, sociologists, historians) unable to work in research or academia and for the most part forced into exile.

1982: A PRAGMATIC RESPONSE TO A CRISIS IN NEOLIBERAL TIMES In this dictatorial context, Terra decided to stay in the country, but he had to look for work abroad due to the lack of opportunities available in Uruguay as a result of the authoritarian climate. He thus expanded his activities as a consultant and his relationship with various international agencies that were part of the United Nations system: ECLAC, HABITAT, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He focused mostly on housing, but he also incorporated childhood- and youth-related issues. During this period, Terra contributed to the reorganization of CLAEH. As the University of the Republic was brutally repressed by the dictatorship, CLAEH, under the protection of the Catholic Church and with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the Inter-American Dialogue (IAD), the International Committee of the Red Cross

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(ICRD), and international agencies such as UNICEF, UNESCO, ECLAC, and UNDP, became one of the few independent academic centers active in the country, a think tank of sorts for the opposition to the dictatorship. The Uruguayan dictatorship (1973–1985) exacerbated the problems of inequality, poverty, and declining upward social mobility that had begun to emerge somewhat dramatically in the 1960s. While the dictatorship managed to achieve steady economic growth after almost two decades of crisis and stagnation, in that same period real wages dropped to historical lows. By the end of the dictatorship the average wage index was 57 percent lower than in 1973.22 Conditions in the country had worsened even more as of 1982, with Uruguay, like much of the continent, falling under a major economic crisis linked to the problem of foreign indebtedness, which aggravated the severe social problems that the dictatorship had been generating since 1973. From 1982 to 1985, real wages fell by 28 percent and the unemployment rate doubled compared to precrisis levels. According to Alicia Melgar, the 1982 crisis compromised the livelihood strategies deployed by families in previous years. Households had initially reacted to the drop in real wages under the dictatorship by increasing the number of hours worked, mainly through a greater participation of women in the labor market.23 But once the crisis set in, that strategy was no longer effective. By 1986, a year into the newly restored democracy, 46.2 percent of Uruguayans were living under the poverty line.24 During this period, Terra began working on a new line of research connected with childhood and poverty, focusing on the nutritional aspects and adverse effects of a poor diet on the psychomotor development of children, as a result of the negative consequences of the growing inequality under the dictatorial regime. This research line expanded as of 1982 when the crisis exacerbated those negative consequences. In 1985, Terra, together with Mabel Hopenhaym, published La infancia en el Uruguay (1973–1984): efectos sociales de la recesión y las políticas de ajuste (Childhood in Uruguay [1973–1984]: The Social Effects of Recession and Adjustment Policies), a UNICEF-funded research study that explored multiple aspects of children’s social conditions during the dictatorship.25 After a thorough analysis of the ways in which the structural adjustment of the 1970s and the recessive adjustment of the crisis of the early 1980s impacted the rise in inequality and poverty, the study took a particular approach to the transformations in family life brought on by these policies. Among the most obvious transformations were a greater concentration of households and the implications of the increase in the number of women in the labor force. While in 1973, 52 percent of women aged twenty to twenty-four

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and 61 percent of women aged twenty-five to fifty-four did not work outside the home, in 1983 those percentages had dropped, respectively, to 31 percent and 39 percent. Despite these transformations in the labor market, no preschool education programs had been implemented to mitigate the impact on families. Other chapters of the study focused on the situation of children in such aspects as nutrition, health, and education. These chapters assessed the differences in the treatment of childhood in the most impoverished sectors, differences that were associated with the public health system or with certain areas of the city. Although the text cautioned that the data were too fragmentary to draw general conclusions, the authors felt they provided a sufficient basis for identifying the emergence of a number of alarming issues, including an increase in nutritional problems, greater impoverishment, a reversal in the downward trend in infant mortality, a growing population in marginal areas, and the lack of preschool education. Terra’s concern for childhood issues continued over the following years. In 1989, he published the findings of a project entitled “Creciendo en condiciones de riesgo: Niños pobres del Uruguay” (“Growing Up in At-Risk Conditions: Poor Children in Uruguay”), financed by UNICEF and the International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF). This report was a continuation of his previous line of reflection on childhood, but it focused on the biological and psychomotor impacts of child poverty. These concerns were part of an epochal emphasis that consisted in a pragmatic approach to the crisis. In the 1970s, experts had described and explained the crisis. They had explored in particular the causes of the crisis, discussed at length the structural aspects, and suggested that a transformation at the political economy level was necessary to solve the country’s social problems. In the 1980s, concerns went in the opposite direction. While experts acknowledged that the 1982 crisis had to do with a neoliberal structural adjustment of the economy, the emphasis was on studying and mitigating the social consequences of the crisis. The technocrats that came from a developmentalist tradition were against the neoliberal adjustment furthered by another, rising group of technocrats, the majority of whom were economists and for the most part connected with international credit institutions—International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, IADB—with an increasing say in public policy design. In that context of advancing neoliberalism, Terra, like other developmentalist technocrats, leaned toward a more humanist and pragmatic approach that abandoned the more structural reflection on the economy and sought to find more efficient ways of using the scarce government resources to help people living in poverty. It was no longer

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about critically assessing the crisis as experts, but about providing elements to mitigate its effects. This approach was conceptualized as the new social policies, which were meant to be localized, targeting those living in poverty. These technocrats gave up reflecting critically on the crisis, relinquishing that role to economists, who were for the most part connected with neoliberal thinking and who would gain more and more ground in the technocratic field. Terra and others were concerned with minimizing the social damages of the crisis that would have implications in the long term. Besides the humanitarian dimension of their approach, which focused on the most vulnerable sectors, this concern for children had to do with an attempt to minimize the consequences of the immediate social impact of the crisis. In Terra’s opinion, the increased participation of women in the labor market had implications for the reorganization of the family, impacting child care and resulting in a lack of early stimulation, as well as causing nutritional problems that affected a whole generation of children, who by 1989 were exhibiting psychomotor deficits and low heights due to nutrient deficiencies and care-related problems. As these impacts would have consequences for the future and would affect the possibilities of development, there was a need to act fast to address these problems. The discussion on what actions to take did not occur under the conceptual framework of the limited welfare state of the 1940s and 1950s and its correlate of social rights, and neither was it framed by the 1960s idea of a future economic development that would include social rights. The key concept in this discussion was the need for social policies. It was assumed that economic development generated social problems and that social policies were the best tools for solving those problems. This debate attracted the attention of a significant number of experts during the 1980s in the context of the country’s re-democratization. Terra played an active role in that debate. The discussion on these specific policies had to do with the efficient use of state resources and with the question of who should be in charge of managing such policies. On the one hand, there was a demand for greater control over state resources. In this sense, in 1989, Terra cautioned that in Uruguay costly policies are implemented without providing for a prior assessment of their impact. On the other hand, Terra posited that the state should allow religious and civil society organizations to participate in social policies, reducing the strong role of the state, which had been one of the characteristics of the policies of the 1950s.26 These political concerns voiced by Terra had an impact in the first years of the process of re-democratization, in two ways. On the one hand, during the first democratic government, the initial focus on addressing childhood poverty,

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the need for specific policies, and the concern over psychomotor and nutritional aspects were connected with the development of nutritional and assistance programs that targeted poor children. On the other, the humanitarian approach tended to cancel out the possibility of resuming the development of the limited welfare state that had been attempted in the 1950s. The specific social policies furthered were presented as antithetical to policies that conceived the general welfare within the framework of the idea of social rights. In this case, we see how developmentalist technocrats abandoned the place of critique with respect to the crisis. Their contributions did not focus on understanding the causes of the crisis and the way to solve it but on mitigating it, assuming the crisis was a reality that did not demand a critical exercise. Why did technocrats like Juan Pablo Terra abandon that critical position and take on this more pragmatic approach? The explanations seem to have to do with conflicts and power struggles within the technocratic field. The task of explaining the crisis was left in the hands of a new kind of technocrat: the economist concerned with the issue of economic growth who gained increasing influence, fueled by international credit institutions. Those concerned with development from a more integral perspective gradually lost ground, or took refuge in more specific trenches, taking up the idea of social development, for example, or returning to the idea of human economy. In this sense, in the 1980s, the critique against experts did not come “from below” as we saw in the 1960s, but from international institutions that supported these new technocrats while they simultaneously put up specific barriers to those interested in social problems.

Through the works of Juan Pablo Terra we have seen two different ways in which developmentalist technocrats addressed crises. On the one hand, the response to the 1955 crisis entailed explaining its structural character and offering solutions that had to do with long-term transformations. In the case of the 1982 crisis, while the structural dimensions were acknowledged, the proposed solutions were pragmatic and sought to reduce the social damage generated by the crisis, but without addressing the causes behind the crisis. Besides the difference in emphasis (with one highlighting structure and the other agency) and in the time frame of the proposed solutions (with one focusing on the long term and the other on the short term), they also differed in the ways in which experts interacted with the social and political world. In both cases, the expert was a specialist who worked for the state and for United Nations agencies, but the profile of that expert was different in each period. In the first moment, there was an

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interaction with the social world that allowed experts to participate in instances of the labor movement, play an important role in the development of the housing cooperative movement, and, finally, reflect on the possibilities of dialogue between developmentalism and the idea of a political revolution. This was possible because that dialogue with the social world enabled a critique “from below” that led Terra to expand his initial proposals and make them more complex. In the second moment, the role of the technocrats appears to have gained greater autonomy and experts, moreover, shied away from long-term proposals, which to some extent could be connected with political reflections associated with social change, but also with the scant spaces that international agencies allowed for any thinking on the relationship between growth and social development. The only space in which experts could give their opinion on the crisis was in the case of specific policies, namely, social policies aimed at alleviating poverty. In a 1996 article, Enzo Faletto noted that there was a tension in the so-called sociology of development, as in some studies one can perceive a perspective that is more typical of what is known as “critical sociology,” where the nature of the society in which one lives is judged, drawing on a worldview or ideology to arrive at that judgment. The intention of that critical sociology is to propose a transformation of society in line with the principles on which it rests . . . , [and this sociology] has coexisted with sociological analyses whose purposes are more functional in nature, aimed at providing specific guidance for practical actions. In this case, the intention of sociological analysis is not for it to lead necessarily to a reform or a complete transformation of the social structure, rather to act effectively on some of its components, adopting goals that have, in some way, been previously determined.27

That tension between a critical and a functionalist dimension is what explains the shift in the approach adopted by the same expert at two different moments. We can clearly see the critical dimension in the first moment and the functionalist in the second. The shift also reveals different value frameworks for the concept of human rights at each moment.28 In the developmentalist moment, one of the leading ideas was that economic growth had to ensure the enjoyment of social human rights. In the 1980s, however, the aspiration to secure those rights was abandoned in favor of focusing on the issue of poverty. In this last case, the concern over poverty, and in particular child poverty, was grounded on a life ethics

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that, in the words of Didier Fassin, was centered on biological and psychomotor aspects.29 In sum, two ways of arguing in the face of a crisis can be distinguished. One is the structural response, which views a crisis as the moment that enables a structural critique and justifies the need for radical change, with a technical rhetoric that inevitably becomes political because, one way or another, it questions the foundations of a certain status quo. The other is the pragmatic and humanitarian response, which involves a more contingent and pragmatic argument. The crisis generates problems that undermine the future. The urgency and, in this case, the humanitarian nature of those problems demand an immediate response to address the consequences of the crisis. The reflection on the root causes and the structural dimensions is ultimately a problem because it takes away from the immediate responses that the effects of the crisis demand, and it divides efforts. These responses are paradigmatic of the different ways in which experts respond in crisis scenarios. It could be argued that one form of response is influenced by more totalizing views of the social world, while the other is shaped by more fragmented views. These forms are not necessarily associated with a specific ideological or political framework. In the case of Juan Pablo Terra’s sociology of development, we can see a transition from a center-left developmentalist view, connected with the idea of social rights, in the structural response, to a humanitarian view that accepts the transformations of neoliberalism and is concerned over the social vulnerability caused by poverty, in the second pragmatic and humanitarian response. But in truth, in that second moment there is a community of economists that take advantage of the 1982 crisis to suggest structural responses of a neoliberal nature. That transition also shows the limitations in the possibilities of dialogue between social knowledge and technocratic discourse. While in the 1960s technocratic rationality dialogued with and was questioned by the social and political world, in the 1980s that interaction no longer seemed possible. In this sense, the reason that a developmentalist such as Terra resorted to a different kind of response in each historical moment seems to have more to do with the possibilities that those responses opened up or denied in each moment. While in the 1960s there was still hope of renewing or strengthening the virtues of the welfare state that was developed in the 1940s and 1950s, in the 1980s, after the dictatorship, the political and intellectual repression, the expansion of poverty and inequality, the growing foreign indebtedness of the Uruguayan state, and the shift in the political and economic views of the international agencies of the United Nations system, the possibilities of the developmentalist

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project were waning, and there was only margin for the humanitarian argument that entailed adapting the old idea of development and social rights to the new neoliberal climate.

NOTES 1. Amy Offner, Sorting Out the Mixed Economy: The Rise and Fall of Welfare and Developmental States in the Americas (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019); Jeremy Adelman, “Epilogue: Development Dreams,” in The Development Century: A Global History, ed. Stephen J. Macekura and Erez Manela (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), https://doi .org/10.1017/9781108678940. 2. Patricio Silva, In the Name of Reason: Technocrats and Politics in Chile (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2012); Ricardo Lopez, Makers of Democracy: The Transnational Formation of the Middle Classes in Colombia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019); Verónica Montecinos and John Markoff, eds., Economistas en las Américas: Profesión, ideología y poder político (Santiago: Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales, 2015); Miguel Angel Centeno and Patricio Silva, The Politics of Expertise in Latin America (New York: St. Martin’s, 1998). 3. Peter Haas, “Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination,” International Organization 46, no. 1 (1992): 3, 4. Marion Fourcade, Etienne Ollion, and Yann Algan, “The Superiority of Economists,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 29, no. 1 (Winter 2015): 89–114. 5. Silva, In the Name of Reason. 6. Edgar Dosman, The Life and Times of Raúl Prebisch, 1901–1986 (Montréal : McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014); 7. Lopez, Makers of Democracy. 8. For a summary of Juan Pablo Terra´s biography, see Maria Jose Bolaña, “Juan Pablo Terra (1924–1991),” in Historia de las izquierdas en Uruguay, ed. Gerardo Caetano, Aldo Marchesi, and Vania Markarian (manuscript). 9. For alternative conceptualizations of technocracy see Eden Medina, Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014). 10. Louis J. Lebret, “Mensaje de Louis J. Lebret a los Equipos del Bien Común”, Cuadernos del CLAEH 33, no. 100 (2012): 361–62. 11. Virginia Pontual, Louis-Joseph Lebret na América Latina: Um exitoso laboratório de experiências em planejamento humanista (Rio de Janeiro: Letra Capital, 2016), 48. 12. Carlos H. Filgueira and Fernando Filgueira, El largo adiós al país modelo: Políticas sociales y pobreza en el Uruguay (Montevideo: Arca, 1994); Carmen Midaglia et al., Orígenes del bienestar en Uruguay: Explicando el universalismo estratificado (Montevideo: Documento Online, DCP, FCS, UdelaR, 2017). 13. Agustin Juncal Pérez, “¿La manzana de la discordia? Debates, movilizaciones y disputas por los salarios rurales en Uruguay (1942–1958)” (master’s thesis, University of the Republic, Montevideo, 2017); Yamandú González Sierra, Los olvidados de la tierra: Vida, organización y luchas de los sindicatos rurales del Uruguay (Montevideo: Fundación Friedrich Ebert Uruguay: CIEDUR: Nordan Comunidad, 1994).

210 Intellectual Engagements 14. Juan Pablo Terra, “El sentido del pecado en la economía,” Tribuna católica 15, no. 1 (1949). 15. Letter to Monseñor Antonio María Barbieri, 06/04/1952, Juan Pablo Terra Archive. 16. Juan Pablo Terra, “El exceso del tecnicismo puede llevar al fracaso,” El bien público. July 17, 1952. 17. Correspondencia con Ricardo Cetrulo. Folder: correspondencia 1945–1958. Archivo Juan Pablo Terra, Instituto Humanismo Cristiano. 18. Guillermo O’Donnell, Ensayos escogidos sobre autoritarismo y democratización (Buenos Aires: Paidós, 1997); Henry Finch, La economía política del Uruguay contemporáneo, 1870–2000 (Montevideo: Ediciones de la Banda Oriental, 2005). 19. See María Jose Bolaña, Pobreza y segregación urbana: Cantegriles montevideanos, 1946–1973 (Montevideo: Rumbo Editorial, 2018). 20. Juan Pablo Terra, Mística, desarrollo y revolución (Montevideo: LIBROSUR, 1985), 128. 21. Terra, Mistica, 128. 22. Juan Pablo Terra and Mabel Hopenhaym, La infancia en el Uruguay (1973–1984): Efectos sociales de la recesión y las políticas de ajuste (Montevideo: Ediciones de la Banda Oriental: CLAEH; Santiago de Chile: UNICEF, Oficina de Área para Argentina, Chile y Uruguay, 1986), 54. 23. Alicia Melgar and Fabio Villalobos, La desigualdad como estrategia: La asignación de recursos en el Uruguay neoliberal (Montevideo: Ediciones de la Banda Oriental: CLAEH, 1986), chap. 2. 24. Monica Beltrami, Evolución de la pobreza por el método de ingreso: Uruguay, 1986–2001 (Montevideo: Instituto Nacional de Estadística [INE], 1996), 25. Terra and Hopenhaym, La infancia en el Uruguay. 26. Juan Pablo Terra, “Politicas sociales para una sociedad mas humana y mejor,” Notas del CLAEH 60, August 1990. 27. Enzo Faletto, “La CEPAL y la sociología del desarrollo,” Revista de la CEPAL, no. 58 (April 1996): 191–204. 28. Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). 29. Didier Fassin, Life: A Critical User’s Manual (Cambridge: Polity, 2018).

10 Against Crisis Violence and Continuity in Manus Island Prison AN N E Mc N E V I N


he recent history of Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is shaped by a series of colonial encounters. Annexed in 1884 as part of German New Guinea, it was home to the anthropologist Margaret Mead for several years in the mid-twentieth century, securing a notable place in the history of her discipline. Falling under Australian military control after World War I, the island was part of a territory entrusted to Australia in 1921. It was occupied by Japanese imperial forces in World War II and then by Allied forces, who built a naval base on its eastern side. In Australian hands, the same base served as a prison for Japanese officers accused of war crimes and as a refueling station during the Korean War. In 2001, under the control of the central government of PNG, Manus became part of Australia’s “Pacific Solution”: a scheme to prevent asylum seekers from reaching Australian territory en route from Indonesia. Rationalized in part as a development opportunity, the former naval base was repurposed for detention and PNG was funded by Australia to detain asylum seekers and to host a process to determine if they were refugees and thus deserving of protection and resettlement. Abandoned in 2007, the scheme was resurrected in 2013 under the terms of a new regional agreement. This time, even those found to be refugees were denied any prospect of entry to Australia and would remain in PNG unless and until a third country accepted them for resettlement. For those men sent to the island, Manus became a prison. In April 2016, the Supreme Court of PNG ruled that the forced removal of non-nationals to PNG and their treatment “as prisoners” within the Regional Processing Centre was unconstitutional.1 The court ordered the Australian and PNG governments to immediately cease and prevent the ongoing detention

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of “transferees”—the Australian government’s term for those intercepted at sea and removed offshore. To comply with the ruling, the prison gates were opened and plans were made for its gradual closure, including the transfer of remaining inmates to an open “transit center” on the outskirts of Lorengau, the capital of Manus Province. In October 2017, more than 600 men occupied the prison in which they had been incarcerated for up to four and a half years. For three weeks, they remained on the decommissioned site, refusing to leave. Photographs of the protest in international media showed the men with fists clenched and arms crossed over their heads in a gesture of defiance. As the occupation continued, compounds were demolished around the men, power and water were cut, sympathetic locals delivering food were turned away by police, who were captured on film soiling makeshift wells with rubbish and oil and sabotaging pipes and pumps (Doherty and Davidson 2017). Weak from dehydration, starvation, sleeplessness, and exposure, Kurdish-Iranian journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani, whose diarized accounts of the protest were published simultaneously in a number of news outlets, described conditions as “living in a hell hole” and the prison as “a war zone” (“Asylum Seekers” 2017). “Many of us have experienced war,” fellow refugee Benham Satah explained to the press, “and this is like a war” (Doherty 2017a). From the outside, the men’s refusal to be released from prison seemed puzzling. Why continue to endure the very treatment that refugees had maintained was in breach of their human rights when alternatives were available? Conditions in Australia’s offshore camps were miserable by any measure, designed to convince detainees to give up on their claims for protection and accept repatriation. Medical professionals described conditions as “akin to torture” (Metherell 2014), and Médecins San Frontières (2018, 4) subsequently reported “catastrophic effects on . . . mental health” that were “amongst the worst that MSF has ever seen.” By the time of the prison occupation, ten refugees had died from illness or injuries sustained offshore. In one such case, Benham Satah, eyewitness to an attack on Iranian refugee Reza Berati, who was bludgeoned to death by guards on Manus in 2014, was taken to the infamous Chauka isolation cell soon after the attack (this “prison within the prison” was profiled in the 2017 documentary Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time). Satah reported being cable-tied to a chair, beaten, and threatened with rape and murder to force a retraction of his witness statement (Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International 2018, 16). In April 2017, PNG defense force officers fired random shots inside the prison (Amnesty International 2017). No investigation took place. In light of this kind of evidence, advocates for the refugees at the time of the prison occupation drew

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attention to the failure of PNG authorities to bring perpetrators of violence to justice or to take refugees’ complaints of violence seriously. Sympathetic commentary emphasized the deficiencies of the new transit center, which was still under construction and could not guarantee security, sanitation, or mental and physical health care for already weak and traumatized refugees. Refusing to accept the substance of such claims and deferring them, in any case, as matters for the government of PNG, Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, accused ringleaders among the refugees of pressuring others to resist and accused Australian advocates of irresponsibly inciting the dangerous rebellion and egging the refugees on (Davidson 2017). In his accounts of the protest, Boochani took the time to address “misperceptions” across the political spectrum about the refugees’ motivations. He dismissed Minister Dutton’s accusations as a facile “form of degradation” that reduced refugees “to children who cannot [understand their situation or] make decisions on their own” (Boochani 2017a). He described the deliberative process through which refugees had assembled each evening, exchanged opinions and strategies, and voted on a course of action. He described their collective commitment to refrain from reproaching anyone who chose to leave the prison at any stage during the protest (Boochani 2017d). Boochani also rebuked those who actively supported refugees for their focus on “peripheral” issues. While the refugees’ fear of violence on Manus was real, and while the transit center was undoubtedly inadequate in all the ways mentioned, the refugees’ protest, Boochani explained, was “not about . . . the conditions of imprisonment” (Boochani 2017a). Their protest was a call for freedom, a genuine freedom that was not represented by an open gate that merely provided a wider perimeter in which to spend one’s days, exactly as one had before. With credible fears for security within PNG and far from certain prospects of being resettled elsewhere, refugees on Manus were stuck where they were indefinitely.2 Whether their accommodation met the best or worst of standards made no difference to the limbo in which they were held. “Inflicting torture by the use of time is the best and complete explanation of this situation,” Boochani (2016) had written almost eighteen months earlier, with reference to the mental pressure, self-harm, and suicides induced among his fellow prisoners by the complete uncertainty as to when or if their incarceration would end. When the refugees occupied the prison in its decrepit state and refused to relocate, they were also refusing to be enlisted in a performance of their release. When police and paramilitary guards finally entered the prison with sticks and iron bars, beating and dragging refugees onto buses for removal (Boochani 2017e; see also Thomas 2017), the refugees—who documented the ordeal in images and

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writing—revealed their decampment from one prison to another for exactly what it was: an explicit and intensified moment in a broader relation of violence and domination. Refugees on Manus documented and resisted the violence to which they were subject in different ways: in a series of hunger strikes and protests; in petitions to the Supreme Court of PNG; in class actions against the Australian government; and in acts of self-harm that unsettled the line between trauma and the willful refusal to tolerate intolerable conditions. While imprisoned on the island, and sometimes after resettlement elsewhere, refugees also produced a considerable volume of journalistic, literary, and artistic work. Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Muhamet addressed the United Nations in 2019 after being recognized internationally for his contribution to a multiple-episode podcast, The Messenger, in collaboration with journalist Michael Green. The cartoons of Iranian refugee Ali Dorani draw attention to the deaths and sexual violence on Manus Island and are published online and in international news outlets under the pen name of Eaten Fish. A number of poets and bloggers have published their work as part of a Writing Through Fences project and through the Beyond the Wire oral history project; and Kurdish refugee Farhad Bandesh released a music recording in 2019, “The Big Exhale,” in collaboration with Australian musicians, choreographers, and video producers.3 By far the most high-profile work is the writing of Behrouz Boochani, who spent over six years imprisoned on Manus until 2019. Boochani has received widespread acclaim for his journalism, written from Manus, and for his 2018 book, No Friend but the Mountains (Boochani 2018b), which straddles fiction, memoir, folklore, epic, social theory, psychoanalytics, and an “anti-genre” his translator calls “horrific surrealism.”4 Boochani also codirected and provided the smuggled footage for Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time. His writings, compiled in thousands of whatsapp messages sent to his translator in Sydney, provide a fine-grained testimony of prison life on Manus and a systematic critique of its conditions of possibility. With obvious connections to prison writing, the literature of exile, and resistance literature more broadly, his writing sits comfortably in none of these genres alone. In this chapter I examine the material, colonial, and epistemic dimensions of Boochani’s critique and the intervention it makes into crisis narratives about refugees. Several different kinds of crises are invoked to narrate the movement of displaced people and would-be migrants across contemporary borders. In one version the crisis pertains to those on the move as sources of threat and disorder. In another version the crisis pertains to the treatment such people endure as

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victims of conflict and persecution, increasingly subject to hostility, detention, and deterrence, or simply left to die. A third counter-narrative suggests that the crisis more rightly pertains to the international refugee regime. From this perspective, it is governments, intergovernmental agencies, humanitarian organizations, and private providers that are themselves in crisis, insofar as they collectively fail to heed international law and to provide refugees with the status and protection they need in a timely and dignified manner. In each of these cases, the crisis is a crisis because it is exceptional and represents a break from what are imagined as more orderly, humane, or competent norms. Boochani’s account of Manus Prison tells a different story. As much as it is a story of failing to provide substantive protection to refugees, it is also a story of protection directed against refugees and deployed in the form of violence. Echoing accounts of historical precedents and enabling conditions made by other scholars, Boochani argues that Manus Prison can only be understood “in a philosophical and historical way” via juxtaposition with longer histories of exile, removal, and confinement.5 From this perspective, Manus Island Prison has less to do with crises than with deep lines of colonial continuity. Boochani also shows how bureaucratic language disguises and banalizes the violence at stake. The literary form he adopts reveals what literal facts cannot, and it works to resist the moral atrophy enabled by epistemic violence.

MANUS PRISON AS MATERIAL VIOLENCE Boochani contends that Manus Prison runs on “implicit” forms of violence in addition to explicit cases of beatings, sexual violence, and solitary confinement. “What I mean by implicit violence,” he explains, “is that over time the rules and regulations wear down the prisoners’ mental health—this form of violence is targeted and a form of psychological torture.” It destroys “one’s . . . sense of self” and contributes to “the deterioration of [the prisoners’] human identities” (Boochani 2018a). Refugee and blogger Imran Mohammad (2016) described the atmosphere on Manus thus: “There are people who are utterly disturbed and wander around in a daze, or suffer heart wrenching sadness or psychosis. They have been broken into pieces and are left as just a shadow of the person they once were.” Implicit violence, writes Boochani, is “a program for pissing all over life” (Boochani 2018b, 305). It takes different forms, including the provision of care itself. Medical care for refugees on Manus was outsourced by the Australian

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government in multimillion-dollar contracts. International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) ran a clinic inside the prison until its closure, and in May 2018 the contract for medical care was transferred to Pacific International Hospital, the main provider for health care in the province. The systematic way in which these arrangements failed to provide even basic levels of care is well documented.6 When a prisoner becomes sick, Boochani explains, “he must wait in excruciatingly long queues, . . . must fill out request forms every day, . . . must hang on to delusional hopes [of treatment]. . . . Ultimately, a sick refugee can do nothing other than search for his name on waiting lists” (Boochani 2018a). Boochani describes how IHMS deployed a ranked schedule of illnesses: A, B, and C. As prisoners became sicker, they moved up in the queue. The system caused suspicion and resentment among the prisoners as some inched forward ahead of others, while “schedule A [the sickest list] seems like an unattainable dream” (Boochani 2018b, 312). Schedule A was full of numbers, Boochani notes in his book, and yet no one could say that their name was actually on it. In any case, he explains, neither specialists nor dentists appeared in the prison, and conditions would escalate to emergencies before guards would take a prisoner to the clinic. An essay by Nick Martin, a doctor who worked for IHMS on Nauru in another of Australia’s offshore camps, gives insight into the perverse nature of offshore care. Martin describes his gradual realization that there was no way to administer treatment to refugees without becoming part of a system designed to break them. He describes how every effort was made to defer, quash, ignore, suppress, or minimize documentation of life-threatening circumstances in order to enable “plausible deniability” among Australian politicians. The effect was to render people lifeless and hopeless, “no longer even angry enough to fight against the injustice of it all” (Martin 2018). The deadening effect, Martin contends, was not limited to refugees, but normalized across the camps: After about four months it suddenly dawned on me: learned helplessness didn’t apply only to the patients. It affected the staff too. You could see it on the faces of those who didn’t look indignant when their failure to speak up or to comment on another poor decision, their complicity in propping up this inhumane system, was pointed out. They had ceased to care, reduced to automata, ticking boxes furiously to satisfy an administrator in Sydney or Canberra and ignoring the simple fact that while people were dying in front of us, we failed to express anything beyond what you might give to a nature documentary when a not particularly cute animal died peacefully. (Martin 2018)

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Martin (2018) also notes the “interminable indignities” of the offshore camps in “a hundred petty rules and regulations.” For Boochani, such daily humiliations were no less deliberate than the constant deferral of care, both being forms of implicit violence. Forced to endlessly queue and compete for everything from squalid toilets, food, and water to razors and paracetamol (acetaminophen), dispensed cup by cup, tablet by tablet, and never in sufficient quantity, refugees also turned on one another in petty squabbles and resentments. Boochani describes how some refugees took perverse pleasure in the humiliation of others, particularly those whose own self-respect had survived intact the longest. In one telling example, his book tells the story of the Prime Minister, a compassionate and sensitive refugee, a “man of virtue” whose character name reflects his “aura of superiority and gravitas.” These are precisely the qualities that make the Prime Minister intolerable to the other prisoners, reminding them of how low their own behavior has sunk. The Prime Minister becomes the butt of others’ jokes when filthy latrines overflow and he is forced to shit in public (Boochani 2018b, 180–84). His fall from grace is parodied by Maysam the Whore, another refugee and “superstar of the prison” whose costumed performances make fun of prison life and relieve its sting momentarily. His carnivalesque displays “are a form of resistance that says, ‘It’s true that we are imprisoned without charge and have been exiled, but look here, you bastards . . . look at how happy and cheerful we are’  ” (Boochani 2018b, 136). The Prime Minister’s experience is not unique among the prisoners, who all suffer grave humiliations, but because his descent from dignity to debasement is sharper than most, he is more susceptible to ridicule. “The next day . . . [the Prime Minister] looks like a toad struggling among frogs inside a stinking swamp of filth” (Boochani 2018b, 186). Soon after the ordeal, he agrees to “voluntary return” to his country. “The prison dictates,” Boochani (2018b, 184) explains, “that the prisoners accept, to some degree, that they are wretched and contemptible.” In this context, the debasement of others is an equalizer that “appeals to the oppressor in all of us” (Boochani 2018b, 53–54). The mutual implication of refugees, medics, guards, and officials in the violence of the prison is the result of what Boochani calls Kyriarchy: “an all-encompassing system of oppressive governmentality” (Boochani 2018b, 329). The term is taken from feminist theologian and philosopher Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (1992, 8), who first used it to describe interlocking structures of domination and rule—patriarchal, colonial, racial, capitalist, and so on. For Boochani, the Prime Minister’s ordeal is one illustration of how this system works. Codes of conduct that rise above the prison’s inhumanity, such as the Prime Minister’s decency,

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are swiftly eroded. Such “norms are shoved aside, and it is Maysam the Whore who pillages them” (Boochani 2018b, 185). It is, in other words, the very means of surviving the prison’s generalized violence, in this case through rebellious performance, that also become the means through which violence is sustained. Kyriarchy is thus a “domesticating process” that normalizes violence and implicates its fiercest critics (Boochani 2018b, 190). An impersonal system in which “everything is micromanaged and mechanical” (Boochani 2018b, 190), Kyriarchy defies the full comprehension of the people who carry it out. Prisoners go crazy trying to establish the logic of the system—the patterns of discipline, the rationale for rules that change on whim—only to discover that the system is designed to baffle and frustrate. “And so with all his feelings of hopelessness, all a prisoner can do is simply smash his fist against a container wall, just bash against it hard, bash his fist against it in rage” (Boochani 2018b, 214). For Boochani, Manus Prison is an acute expression of a generalized Kyriarchal system: “What is happening on Manus . . . is the exact same system that functions in hospitals, schools, universities and other institutional structures in the outside world. What takes place in the prison . . . is, in fact, the perfect manifestation of a system that strips human beings of their personhood and autonomy” (Boochani 2018a). To illustrate the point, Boochani compares the plight of refugees on Manus to the key character in Ken Loach’s 2016 film, I, Daniel Blake. The film tells the story of an Englishman’s battle with a bureaucratic system that fails him medically and financially in the wake of a heart attack that leaves him unable to work. Blake finally suffers a fatal attack in the bathroom of the office from which he sought assistance. He dies, Boochani explains, “in the grip of the system, exactly like the refugees on Manus and Nauru who have lost their lives under the watch of the nurses, doctors and immigration authorities” (Boochani 2018a). In the case of Manus, an oppressive system masquerades as one in which care is ever present, from the on-site clinic, to the promise of asylum. Boochani draws attention to the suicides on Manus, whose very description as suicides reduces implicit violence to the victim’s own pathology. Recounting the death of Rohingya refugee Salim, who jumped from a moving vehicle in 2018, Boochani explains that “for years, Salim was like a possessed corpse who would die a number of deaths every day . . . he would just walk over to the medical centre in the hope of being healed. Death by a thousand blows; death endured over and over again” (Boochani 2018c). “Salim and many others were driven to death,” Boochani explains: The deaths on Manus must be understood in the context of the various interlocking processes that occur here: the never-ending queues under the burning

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sun just to receive food; the hierarchies constructed to divide people in the prison; the rationalization and control of every decision and action; the humiliation prisoners experience, and the contempt of the staff and authorities; the denial of rights and respect; the demeaning of human life; chains of events leading to death; death via a mechanical process; death as a commodity, for political profit. (Boochani 2018c)

In Boochani’s view, the violence in which these deaths are embedded is not restricted to the offshore camps. The prisoners’ incarceration reflects a wider and more subtle form of containment. In the case of Australia, Boochani reveals its colonial past and present as a cage in itself. Built on twin fantasies of hermetic border control and a whitewashed history, it is a cage that locks its inmates into a way of life that tolerates and profits from violence done to others and keeps alternatives beyond the reach of confined imaginations (Boochani 2017c, 2017d).7

MANUS PRISON AS COLONIAL VIOLENCE You know the Australian government they tried to kill us at that time but they put PNG as the face—little man do whatever they want. Obeida, Syrian refugee on Manus, on the prison occupation8

In his accounts of the 2017 prison occupation and of prison life in general, Boochani refuses to buy into the denigration of Manusians that was playing out in claims about the brutality of locals towards refugees and the unsuitability of a poor and underdeveloped state for refugee resettlement. Instead, he shows how colonial tropes surfaced among progressive advocates for refugees and among agents of border control. Progressive accounts of the inhumane conditions and security risks faced by refugees did little to dispel a one-dimensional image of PNG as a backward and brutal place.9 Much of the commentary glossed over the distinctions between the central government of PNG, whose aim was to exploit the economic spin-offs of the offshore arrangements, and local Manusians, who from the outset of the regional arrangement had resisted the flow of benefits to the capital while the island province was left to deal with the predictable fallout from the presence of the prison on the island, including disputes over employment, contracts, land, cultural norms, scarce resources, and waste disposal.10 Little attention was given to those Manusians who attempted to defuse tensions

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and broker good relations between refugees and locals (but see Doherty 2017b). Little effort was made to frame local grievances within a wider and multiscalar assemblage of uneven development and neocolonial relations. As for border authorities, Boochani notes in his book that even before their transfer to Manus, the refugees were instructed by Australian officials in the raft of tropical diseases that lay in wait on the island, and in the savage, even cannibalistic ways of the local Manusians, as a way of inciting sufficient terror to compel the refugees to give up and go home (Boochani 2018b, 83).11 He describes the clear hierarchy of Australian and Papuan prison guards and the briefings that Papuan subordinates received about criminals and terrorists within the prison population (Boochani 2018b, 167–68). In this pyramid of status, Boochani reveals the small moments of alliance between Papuan guards and prisoners—a head turned here, a cigarette smoked there—in secret from Australian overseers. It was Papuan guards who administered a “red-hot wire” (Boochani 2018b, 308) to deaden the nerves of Boochani’s aching tooth and whose kindness in doing so Boochani chooses over the indignity and deferrals of the prison’s medical clinic. Boochani’s point is not to deny the Papuan guards’ full implication in the violence of the prison or to deny the fear they inspired in the prisoners. He is candid about both (Boochani 2018b, 331–33). His point is instead to show how colonial hierarchies are weaponized to pit prisoner, guard, and local against one another and to sustain and legitimize the violence. For Boochani, this process is linked to a longer history of colonial violence that links Australia’s dispossession of Indigenous peoples with neocolonial relations in the Pacific: “This is not the first time in modern Australian history that the government is perpetuating this kind of fascist policy. Just remember the Stolen Generations and what governments have done and still do to First Nations people.”12 A number of scholars make more sustained connections between immigration detention and the strategies of removal, separation, and enclosure that have long characterized Australia’s treatment of nonwhite others—Indigenous and immigrant (Bashford and Strange 2002; Coddington 2017; Nethery 2009; Perera and Pugliese 2018). Amy Nethery draws attention to consistent use of islands by Australian authorities as sites of “secondary punishment” for convicts and Aboriginal people, enemy and alien internment, and quarantine, all involving arbitrary and indefinite forms of confinement and sometimes incorporating brutal forms of violence (Nethery 2012). Others point to a continuum between historical forms of resource extraction in the Pacific under colonial

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arrangements and the current extraction of value from an offshore archipelago as part of a wider prison-industrial complex (Morris 2019; Neilson 2018; Watson 2015). Still others draw attention to colonial dimensions of incarceration as a global policing technology (Davis 2016; Turner and Peters 2017). Boochani’s critique might be read alongside this wider body of work, adding unique insight to the colonial and settler-colonial histories that condition forms of incarceration multiplying in the present. That aspect of Boochani’s writings that provokes a confrontation with a colonial past and present has prompted far less commentary than his general account of prison conditions. With some notable exceptions (Sparrow 2018), initial reviews of No Friend but the Mountains emphasized the book’s account of the treatment of refugees in the here and now as a springboard for advocating an immediate change in Australian government policy. Within Australia, advocates for refugees on Manus and Nauru typically insisted that offshore detention was an aberration from Australian political culture: “This is not who we are as Australians, or indeed as human beings,” wrote high-profile recipients of Australian civic awards in an open letter to the government at the time of the prison occupation in November 2017 (Dias 2017); and “We’re Better Than This” was the title of a song recorded by Australian celebrities in 2014, calling on fellow nationals to rise to their better selves by ending the mandatory detention of refugee children both onshore and offshore (see Dye 2014). Appealing to the vanity of a national “we” in a climate increasingly hostile to refugees and migrants, slogans such as these resisted the reduction of the national narrative to governmental expressions of border security and sovereign defense. But insofar as these interventions failed to come to grips with the violent histories that have constituted the national “we” in exclusive and homogenizing terms, they also had a pernicious effect. They reproduced an essentialism about the national “we” that necessitates either outright denial of collective histories that tell a different story, or the relegation of those other stories to closed chapters of the past—exceptions in an otherwise progressive national tale. The notion of offshore detention as an exception to the rule, limited in time and space, makes it harder to anticipate the next iteration of colonialism that makes it make sense for some people to suffer grave forms of violence that would never be tolerated for others. Interventions of this kind therefore fail to heed Boochani’s point, and that of postcolonial and decolonial thinkers, that colonial violence is a structure and not an event, and one that defines relations across and within both colony and metropole (Quijano 2000; Wolfe 2006).

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MANUS PRISON AS EPISTEMIC VIOLENCE For Boochani, language plays a key role in concealing, erasing, and rationalizing the violence of Manus Prison, from the numbers used in place of names to identify the prisoners to the generic categories that mark their administrative progress as “illegal maritime arrivals,” “asylum seekers,” “transferees”, and so on.13 Boochani resists this language in his journalism where he can, and in his literature entirely. For example, he refuses to use the terms “Australian Border Force” and “offshore processing centres,” referring instead to guards, prisons, prisoners, and refugees (Boochani 2018b, 369). His book takes a literary and poetic form. For Boochani, this is both a political and aesthetic choice. He contends that the journalistic form does not have the potency to cut through administrative rationales or to get at truths that are more than the sum of accumulated facts (Boochani 2019). Resisting the prison’s violence requires something more, Boochani insists: a creative form that does not reproduce the epistemic frame through which the violence is normalized. The epistemic frame through which refugees are typically engaged is one in which they are imagined as either villains or saints and are not permitted the full range of human qualities. While Boochani’s rendering of prison life is sympathetic to the prisoners, it is also a portrayal of their multidimensionality: their wit and insight, their longings and loves, and their all-too-human failings. “In our prison,” he notes, “the prisoners keep their distance from those who express some boldness and bravery because that will mean that they will not have to exert courage themselves” (Boochani 2018b, 323). His characters include the virtuous and the obscene, the Prime Minister and Maysam the Whore, but also the sneaky and the selfish: the Cadaver, who hides dates and pistachios in his underwear, eating them in view of his starving companions; and the Cow, who is somehow always first in line for anything being dispensed. Even in those moments when refugees experience the exhilarating feeling of freedom in collective acts of defiance, Boochani resists heroic narratives. As prisoners riot, breaking rules and regulations that suddenly mean nothing, he tempers the fleeting sensation of freedom with the onset of fear and the pathos of the prisoners’ condition. The roar of those rioting “sounded nothing like that of a lion,” he writes, “more like a wild ass” (Boochani 2018b, 346). Other refugees have described how protests and hunger strikes, prior to the prison occupation, met with swift and brutal removal to solitary confinement cells (GetUp! and Human Rights Law Centre 2017, 11). Two years prior to the prison occupation, some sixty prisoners had engaged in another act of defiance—one that has drawn little attention against the more

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dramatic accounts of protest, hunger strikes, and self-harm. They refused to submit applications for asylum under international law, all the while insisting that they were refugees in need of protection. The prisoners knew that submitting formal claims would lock them into resettlement in PNG. Farhad Rahmati, an Iranian engineer and one of the sixty involved in the action, noted that the death of Reza Berati had focused the prisoners’ resolve to disengage from the formal status determination process (Tlozek 2018). Later, several refugees who had earlier resettled in PNG sought readmission to the prison after becoming homeless (Doherty and Davidson 2016b). Boochani described in a Guardian post how the pressure to accept resettlement within PNG was held like a “sledgehammer over our head,” compounding the fears and anxieties that prisoners felt about their security on the island (Boochani 2016). Videos shown to the prisoners put it like this: “If you choose not to relocate [to PNG], you are choosing to deny yourself freedom” (Doherty 2015b). By refusing to submit their applications, the refugees were also refusing to relinquish the meaning of freedom to their captors’ parameters of choice. They refused, in addition, to reduce refugeehood to a narrow, legalistic, and conditional status, decided at governmental whim. In a Kafkaesque turn of events, the men nevertheless received status determinations in 2016. Boochani was among those with a positive assessment and was declared a refugee in formal legal terms, while forty-five others were rejected, never having applied for asylum in the first place. Iranians, like Rahmati, with a negative decision and whose government refused involuntary returns, could not be deported. He, along with some one hundred others similarly undeportable, faced indefinite detention on the island (Tlozek 2018). Others, now affirmed as refugees, remained stuck on Manus unless and until another government accepted them for resettlement. When the sixty men concerned were judged to be either refugees or not, they were also informed that the refugees among them would be moved to a different compound of the prison. A month before, the prison’s 900 inmates had all been told that confirmed refugees would be separated from others. Those with “positive assessments” who moved between compounds voluntarily would be given additional “credit points” redeemable for food or cigarettes, while those who refused would have points deducted and be forcibly removed (Doherty and Davidson 2016a). These plans were part of a deliberate strategy, later confirmed in leaks to the press, to generate hierarchies among the prisoners and to make daily life so intolerable that those with fewest options would accept “voluntary return” (Boochani, Doherty, and Evershed 2017). Of the 1,523 men sent to Manus, 42 percent had been “voluntarily” returned to their countries of origin by 2018 (Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International 2018, 36).

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When Boochani received the news of his positive assessment and the order to change compounds, he climbed a tree in protest. He remained in the tree from the early morning until the afternoon. From one perspective, this story seems as puzzling as the one with which this chapter began. Why on earth would a man seeking asylum object to a decision to grant him refugee status, and why in addition would he think to climb a tree in response? The man in the tree was surely not in his right mind. Boochani had earlier suggested as much. “[B]ehind the high steel fences of the Manus Island detention centre,” Boochani had reported to journalists that “his health is often poor, his moods swing dramatically, from a wild and garrulous mania to black and shiftless depression. He says he can sense when his mental state is slipping from his control, but feels powerless” (Doherty 2015a). When Boochani’s protest was reported in the Guardian, journalists cited an Australian spokesperson for the relevant department saying that it was “aware of the incident and that Manus authorities were onsite ‘to ensure the ongoing safety and welfare of the individual concerned’  ”(Wahlquist and Doherty 2016). Different accounts of this story provide an illustration of the epistemic conditions under which Manus Prison becomes legible. The bureaucrat’s response reduces the matter to one incident among many that have filled thousands of pages of reports completed by medics and prison authorities.14 The response emphasizes care for the nameless individual, suggesting that his actions are best understood as generic signs of trauma and mental illness. In this rendition, the words imply that substantive care is available and obscure any connection between the provision of care itself and the violence that, in a different rendition, provoked the man’s seemingly ludicrous gesture. Sometime after “the incident,” Boochani wrote an account of exactly what he had been doing in the tree: When I was on top of that tree I found I was a crazy actor, a crazy poet. . . . I was completely crazy. But philosophical crazy. . . . [That day] I wrote a letter saying that today I am a free man because I have enough power and I am outside this system. On top of this tree I was above the fences, and I was outside the prison. . . . If I come down I will lose my power and you don’t have enough power to tell me to come down. (Boochani 2017b, 18–19)

In Boochani’s rendition, climbing the tree was at once a poetic gesture, a literal and figurative vision of the possible beyond the prison walls, and a political act of defiance. Climbing the tree was an escape of sorts—into madness perhaps, a willful refusal to comply with the prison system, and a stunt to attract attention.

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Atop the tree, a certain kind of freedom was enacted and the prison’s weak points were exposed. In that place, for that day, the prison could not stifle what became possible in spite and because of systemic violence. The different truths conveyed by these two renditions of the same event are linked to what Miranda Fricker refers to as epistemic injustice. One kind of epistemic injustice is “the injustice of having some significant area of one’s social experience obscured from collective understanding owing to a structural identity prejudice in the collective hermeneutical resource” (Fricker 2007, 155). In this case, the “structural identity prejudice” is the prejudice that positions refugees as unreliable witnesses to their own experience, either because they are believed to cynically manipulate the hospitality of others and therefore cannot be trusted, or because they are imagined to be too traumatized to respond with reason, analysis, or rebellion to the circumstances they confront. Either way, the collective resources available to interpret the events in question are diminished as a result and skewed toward the accounts of “authoritative” sources: bureaucrats, lawyers, psychiatrists. Whereas Fricker conceives of an intervention against epistemic injustice from the perspective of a reflexive listener to the “hermeneutically marginalized,” Boochani intervenes directly from the perspective of the latter. He uses the literary form as an act of epistemic defiance, as an aesthetic break with the administrative and medicalized forms of knowledge that monopolize what can be said, in truth, about what happens on Manus Island. It is in aesthetic practice that Boochani finds moments of reprieve when prison life induces resentment, even hatred, among the refugees (Boochani 2018b, 168). Grasping in poetic form the memories of longing, beauty, and the mountains of his youth is a way of refusing the normalization of violence and retreating to a space where another mode of life can be imagined. “The only people who can overcome and survive all the suffering inflicted by the prison,” he concludes, “are those who exercise creativity” (Boochani 2018b, 128). Boochani insists, however, that creativity is more than a site of individual or psychological withdrawal. In the prison, it takes a collective and embodied form as refugees express themselves and address one another beyond the numbers and administrative identities to which they have been reduced. In an open letter, accounting for what had sustained the prison occupation, Boochani (2017d) writes that “our resistance enacted a profound poetic performance . . . [a]n epic constituted by half-naked bodies up against a violent governmentality.” Though “suppressed by every form of torture . . . and . . . confronted by every application of violence,” the refugees “re-imagine[d] themselves” in “a new form of identification, which asserts that we are human beings.” “I never felt that I’m free in five-and-a-half years [on Manus],”

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writes Aziz Abdul Muhamat, “except those 24 days [in which we occupied the prison]. . . . I felt that people are calling my name, ‘Aziz,’ instead of Q and K and zero, zero two” (Code 2018). In the wake of the prison’s closure, freedom remained elusive. In May 2019, the surprise return to government of Australia’s conservative coalition provoked a spate of suicide attempts on Manus Island. Between May and July of that year, up to one hundred refugees had self-harmed in one form or another (Cave 2019). According to fellow refugees, the election result shattered any hope that a change of government might somehow soften Australian policy and bring the prisoners’ limbo to an end. In August 2019, those remaining on Manus were transferred, yet again, to Port Moresby. Fifty-two men whose status had not been formalized as refugees were detained, incommunicado, in Bomana Immigration Centre, a closed facility funded by Australia and annexed to a state prison. Several men who later emerged from Bomana, having signed agreements for “voluntary return” to the countries from which they had fled, told journalists that “it was Bomana which broke them” (Davidson 2020). In his book, Boochani gives a poetic account of his weeklong odyssey on a rotting boat en route from Indonesia to Australia: a boat that was crammed with people, their sweat, their vomit, their stench; a boat that induced some on board toward acts of care and selflessness, others to survival-driven selfishness; a boat that sank and left its passengers to the whims of the sea and the whims of passing ships and crew who knew that to rescue was to invite their own criminalization. In the midst of all this, Boochani describes “a colossal encounter” with himself: a colossal encounter—where the essence of my being could manifest—where I could interrogate my soul—so that I could lay myself bare: Is this human being who he thinks he is? Does this human being reflect the same theories that he holds? Does this human being embody courage? (Boochani 2018b, 70)

Readers of Boochani’s book cannot avoid a colossal encounter with the reality of violence that Manus Prison represents. Boochani’s challenge is to engage with that encounter in ways that connect the violence on Manus with broader cultures of denial and historical amnesia. To do so is to see Manus Prison and other sites of contemporary encampment and incarceration as the outcome of systemic, historical, and ongoing forms of violence, rather than an outcome of

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contemporary crisis or as somehow aberrant expressions of who “we” really are. His challenge is therefore to come to terms with a generalized capacity for inhumanity, whether in the shape of direct violence, bureaucratic inertia, or perverse forms of protection.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT This chapter draws on an earlier review of No Friend but the Mountains, published in Inside Story and available here: -refugees-on-manus/. NOTES 1. Belden Norman Namah, MP, v. Hon. Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, National Executive Council, and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, No. SC1497 (Supreme Court of Justice, Papua New Guinea, 2016), 4, 25. 2. Under the terms of a so-called refugee swap negotiated in November 2016, the United States agreed to resettle refugees held in Manus and Nauru, and Australia agreed to resettle Cuban refugees held in Guantanamo Bay. By the time of the prison occupation, some twenty-five refugees had been resettled from Manus and Nauru in this way. The terms of the arrangement, however, did not cover the full number of refugees offshore, and resettlement in the United States would be subject to security vetting. With respect to the threat of violence on Manus, both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and an Australian Senate committee revealed evidence that security could not be effectively guaranteed for refugees. Violence against refugees had been threatened and carried out in attacks on Manus both inside and outside detention. See Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee 2014, 51–54; UNHCR 2017, 1–2. 3. See and Michael Green and André Dao, eds., They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2017). For “The Big Exhale,” see Muhamet won the Swiss government’s Martin Ennals Award in 2019 for The Messenger, available at /broadcasts/podcasts/the-messenger. 4. Boochani won the Amnesty International Australia Media Award in 2017, the Anna Politkovskaya prize for journalism in 2018, and, in 2019, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Special Award, the Australian National Biography Award, and the Australian Book Industry’s award for nonfiction book of the year. For an account of “horrific surrealism,” see translator’s reflections in Boochani 2018b, 366. 5. Behrouz Boochani, Facebook, October 16, 2018. 6. A coroner’s report into the 2014 death of refugee Hamid Karzaei, after a routine infection turned septic, examines the provision of care that these outsourced arrangements entailed. The coroner found that Karzaei’s death was preventable and that the causes of his death

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7. 8. 9. 10. 11.




could not be reduced to the actions or inactions of individual health practitioners or to expertise unavailable in PNG. Rather, he found that Australian political imperatives competed with medical imperatives, resulting in “critical error,” “fundamental flaw[s],” and “systemic failure” with respect to medical care (Coroners Court of Queensland 2018, 3–4, 95–98). Doctors’ referrals for specialist treatment met with constant resistance from guards inside the camps, from PNG authorities, and from the Australian government, which routinely frustrated doctors’ recommendations and federal court orders for medical evacuations (see Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee 2014, 44–48; 2017, 39–48; see also Human Rights Watch 2017). This point is also made by Tofighian in his translator’s notes to No Friend but the Mountains. Quotation from Obeida, Syrian refugee, is from an interview in April 2018 on Manus Island, cited in Writing Through Fences, For an exception, see Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International 2018. For details on these tensions and disputes, see Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee 2014, 13–14, 54. According to one former prison employee, stories of cannibalism told by guards to detainees were “rampant,” along with stories of high levels of HIV infection and crime against foreigners within the PNG community (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee 2014, 52). Behrouz Boochani, Facebook, October 16, 2018. The “Stolen Generations” refers to Indigenous children being forcibly removed from their parents by government policy into the 1970s. A former worker within the prison explained that staff were sanctioned if they did not refer to refugees by boat number, rather than name (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee 2017, 45–46). For example, in August 2016, the Guardian released what became known as the Nauru Files, including thousands of leaked incident reports detailing assaults, sexual abuse, and child abuse occurring in the camp. See -files. On Manus, the extent to which reports of this kind failed to elicit responses is conveyed by the evidence of a former Salvation Army employee in Manus prison: “With reports going unheard and [violent] incidents being covered up, with no-one really to report to and the threat of danger being from outside [the prison], I am unsure of how anyone can guarantee the asylum seekers’ safety” (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee 2014, 53).

REFERENCES Amnesty International. 2017. In the Firing Line: Shooting at Australia’s Refugee Centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. London: Amnesty International. “Asylum Seekers Say Situation Worsening on Manus.” The National, November 6. https://www Bashford, Alison, and Carolyn Strange. 2002. “Asylum-Seekers and National Histories of Detention.” Australian Journal of Politics and History 48, no. 4: 509–27.

Against Crisis 229  Boochani, Behrouz. 2016. “This Is Manus Island: My Prison, My Torture, My Humiliation.” The Guardian, February 18. -manus-island-my-prison-my-torture-my-humiliation. Boochani, Behrouz. 2017a. “All We Want Is Freedom—Not Another Prison Camp.” The Guardian, November 12. -not-another-prison-camp. Boochani, Behrouz. 2017b. “For Six Months I Was Jesus.” In They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention, ed. M. Green and A. Dao, 3–25. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Boochani, Behrouz. 2017c. “I Write from Manus Island as a Duty to History.” The Guardian, December 5. -island-as-a-duty-to-history. Boochani, Behrouz. 2017d. “A Letter from Manus Island.” The Saturday Paper, December 9. https:// Boochani, Behrouz. 2017e. “There Was Our Silence and Their Violence as Manus Camp Was Evacuated.” The Guardian, November 30. /dec/01/there-was-our-silence-and-their-violence-as-manus-camp-was-evacuated. Boochani, Behrouz. 2018a. “Manus Prison Theory.” The Saturday Paper, August 11–17. https://www Boochani, Behrouz. 2018b. No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, trans. Omid Tofighian. Sydney: Pan Macmillan Australia. Boochani, Behrouz. 2018c. “Salim Fled Genocide to Find Safety. He Lost His Life in the Most Tragic Way.” The Guardian, May 25. /25/salim-fled-genocide-to-find-safety-he-lost-his-life-in-the-most-tragic-way. Boochani, Behrouz. 2019. In Conversation with Anne McNevin, New York University, 26 April, at the Panel “Stolen Time,” and Screening of the Film “Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time.” Transcript on file with the author. Boochani, Behrouz, Ben Doherty, and Nick Evershed. 2017. “Revealed: Year-Long Campaign to Make Conditions Harsher for Manus Refugees.” The Guardian, May 16. https://www.theguardian .com/australia-news/2017/may/17/revealed-year-long-campaign-to-make-conditions-harsher -for-manus-refugees. Cave, Damian. 2019. “A Timeline of Despair in Australia’s Offshore Detention Centers.” New York Times, June 26. .html. Coddington, Kate. 2017. “Mobile Carceral Logics: Aboriginal Communities and Asylum Seekers Facing Enclosure in Australia’s Northern Territory.” In Carceral Mobilities: Interrogating Movement in Incarceration, ed. J. Turner and K. Peters, 17–29. London: Routledge. Code, Bill. 2018. “Manus and the Deepening Despair of Australia’s Endless Detention Policy.” Al Jazeera, December 4. -australia-endless-detention-policy-181203070732724.html. Coroners Court of Queensland. 2018. Inquest into the Death of Hamid Khazaei. Brisbane: File No: 2014/3292. Davidson, Helen. 2017. “ ‘I Will Kill You’: Video Contradicts Peter Dutton’s Claim Refugees Were Lying.” The Guardian, December 10. /peter-dutton-accuses-manus-island-refugees-of-lying-about-being-threatened.

230 Intellectual Engagements Davidson, Helen. 2020. “Leaked Photos of Papua New Guinea Prison Reveal ‘Torture’ of 18 Asylum Seekers Cut Off from World.” The Guardian, January 14. https://www.theguardian .com/world/2020/jan/15/leaked-photos-of-papua-new-guinea-prison-reveal-torture-of-18 -asylum-seekers-cut-off-from-world. Davis, Angela. 2016. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Chicago: Haymarket. Dias, Avani. 2017. “Australians of the Year Call for Doctors to Be Allowed into Former Manus Island Detention Centre.” ABC News, November 22. /australians-of-the-year-open-letter-to-pm-on-manus-island/9181874. Doherty, Ben. 2015a. “Day of the Imprisoned Writer: Behrouz Boochani—Detained on Manus Island.” The Guardian, November 14. -the-imprisoned-writer-behrouz-bouchani-detained-on-manus-island. Doherty, Ben. 2015b. “Hundreds of Refugees Are Refusing to Settle in Png’s ‘Land of Opportunities.’ ” The Guardian, October 23. /hundreds-of-refugees-are-refusing-to-settle-in-pngs-land-of-opportunities. Doherty, Ben. 2017a. “Decay, Despair, Defiance: Inside the Manus Island Refugee Camp.” The Guardian, November 16. -despair-defiance-inside-the-manus-island-refugee-camp. Doherty, Ben. 2017b. “ ‘I Cannot Leave My Neighbour Hungry’: Support for Refugees from Priest and Major on Manus.” The Guardian, November 22. -news/2017/nov/23/they-say-that-manus-is-hell-seeking-salvation-among-the-standoff. Doherty, Ben, and Helen Davidson. 2016a. “Manus Detainees Told They Will Be Separated, Then Resettled or Repatriated.” The Guardian, March 29. /australia-news/2016/mar/29/manus-detainees-told-they-will-be-separated-and-resettled-or -repatriated. Doherty, Ben, and Helen Davidson. 2016b. “Nearly 50 Manus Island Detainees Told They Have No Claim to Refugee Status.” The Guardian, April 20. -news/2016/apr/20/nearly-50-manus-island-detainees-told-they-have-no-claim-to-refugee -status. Doherty, Ben, and Helen Davidson. 2017. “More Than 300 Men Still in Manus Detention Centre After Png Attempt to Move Them.” The Guardian, November 23. https://www.theguardian .com/australia-news/2017/nov/23/more-than-300-men-still-in-manus-detention-centre-after -png-attempt-to-move-them. Dye, Josh. 2014. “ ‘We’re Better Than This’: Prominent Australians Raise Their Voices to Have Children Released from Detention.” Sydney Morning Herald, November 26. /music/were-better -than-this-prominent-australians-raise-their-voices-to-have-children-released-from-detention -20141126-11u88t.html. Fricker, Miranda. 2007. Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press. GetUp! and Human Rights Law Centre. 2017. Four Years Too Many: Offshore Processing on Manus Island and Nauru. bb43a3c32a8d/1500346340414/Four+Years+Too+Many.pdf. Human Rights Watch. 2017. “Australia/Png: Refugees Face Unchecked Violence.” October 25.

Against Crisis 231  Martin, Nick. 2018. “The Nauru Diaries.” Meanjin 77, no. 1: 46–64. Médecins San Frontièrs. 2018. “Indefinite Despair: The Tragic Mental Health Consequences of Offshore Processing on Nauru.” Médecins San Frontièrs Mental Health Project, Nauru, December 3. -consequences-nauru. Metherell, Lexi. 2014. “Immigration Detention Psychiatrist Dr Peter Young Says Treatment of Asylum Seekers Akin to Torture.” ABC News, August 5. /psychiatrist-says-treatment-of-asylum-seekers-akin-to-torture/5650992. Mohammad, Imran. 2016. “The Cry of a Voice in Isolation: Behind the Wire of Manus Prison.” -Wire-of-Manus-Prison. Morris, Julia. 2019. “Violence and Extraction of a Human Commodity: From Phosphate to Refugees in the Republic of Nauru.” The Extractive Industries and Society 6, no. 4: 1122–33. Neilson, Brett. 2018. “The Currency of Migration.” South Atlantic Quarterly 117, no. 2: 375–96. Nethery, Amy. 2009. “ ‘A Modern-Day Concentration Camp’: Using History to Make Sense of Australian Immigration Detention Centres.” In Does History Matter? Making and Debating Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Policy in Australia and New Zealand, ed. K. Neumann and G. Tavan, 65–80. Canberra: ANU e-press. Nethery, Amy. 2012. “Separate and Invisible: A Carceral History of Australian Islands.” Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 6, no. 2: 85–98. Perera, Suvendrini, and Joseph Pugliese. 2018. “Sexual Violence and the Border: Colonial Genealogies of US and Australian Immigration Detention Regimes.” Social and Legal Studies 30, no. 1: 66–79. Quijano, Aníbal, and Michael Ennis. 2000. “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America.” Nepantla: Views from South 1, no. 3: 533–80. Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International. 2018. “Papua New Guinea: Until When? The Forgotten Men on Manus Island.” November 20. Sydney, Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1992. But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation. Boston: Beacon. Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee. 2014. Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee. 2017. Serious Allegations of Abuse, Self-Harm and Neglect of Asyum Seekers in Relation to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, and Any Like Allegations in Relation to the Manus Regional Processing Centre. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Thomas, Andrew. 2017. “Manus Island Refugee: ‘I Was Beaten with Iron Bars.’ ” Al Jazeera, November 27. -171127092501544.html. Tlozek, Eric. 2018. “ ‘Negative Status’ Asylum Seekers on Manus Island Left Hanging in Legal Limbo, Unable to Leave or Stay.” ABC News, March 7. /asylum-seekers-on-manus-island-left-hanging-in-limbo/9521972. Turner, Jennifer, and Kimberley Peters, eds. 2017. Carceral Mobilities: Interrogating Movement in Incarceration. London: Routledge.

232 Intellectual Engagements United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 2017. UNHCR Fact Sheet on Situation of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, December 15. Wahlquist, Calla, and Ben Doherty. 2016. “Manus Detainee Climbs Tree in Rejection of Png Refugee Status.” The Guardian, April 24. /apr/24/manus-asylum-seeker-deemed-refugee-climbs-tree-to-protest-settlement-in-png. Watson, Jini Kim. 2015. “From Pacific Way to Pacific Solution: Sovereignty and Dependence in Oceanic Literature.” Australian Humanities Review 58 (May): 29–49. Wolfe, Patrick. 2006. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research 8, no. 4: 387–409.

PART THREE Affected Communities


11 Love Trumps Hate Community Caretaking in an Era of Mass Deportation DE N I S E B R E N N AN


n the middle of a crisis, how do individuals who are targets of state violence and exclusions creatively assert a sense of safety and autonomy? Under current immigration law in the United States, anyone without authorization is subject to detention and deportation. By criminalizing immigration, the U.S. government has created a crisis with no end in sight for over 11 million undocumented individuals and another 17 million who live in a household with at least one family member who is unauthorized. They are forced to develop ways to survive—and thrive—through confrontations with state institutions steeped in white supremacy that inflict violence. This chapter discusses notions of resiliency. The focus here is not on people’s threshold for suffering and loss, but rather on the structures that create such injurious conditions in the first place. The chapter emphasizes the kind of change that can be achieved and the modes of security that can be attained through the solidarity practices of community building. As some community members struggle to survive and thrive individually and others work on behalf of a larger collective, there are also state agents—and their self-deputizing proxies—who make decisions that allow for white supremacy to appear, proliferate, and persist. Through a central frame of refusal, this chapter puts on stage what happens off stage in this latest era of mass deportation: unchecked and unfettered racialized policing, as well as targets’ refusal to be criminalized, dehumanized, and brutalized. It corrects popular misunderstandings about undocumented migration in three key ways. First, it proposes that while undocumented migrants take care to avoid any encounters with law enforcement, they hardly, as the popular saying goes, “live in the shadows.” This portrayal of retreat makes militarized border

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policing a material and affective power that is totalizing and unmet by resistance and refusal. The chapter also calls attention to what actually happens in the shadows—the workings of the deportation regime. Migrants are abused along the migrant trail, in their U.S. communities and neighborhoods, in detention centers located in rural off-the-grid areas, and in deportation and other court proceedings. Local police set up stakeouts and blockades in migrant neighborhoods, often in collusion with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These roundups and subsequent disappearances often go unseen by the larger public and are unreported or underreported in the media. But directly impacted communities know. The third reframing in this chapter highlights instances when members of migrant communities look out for one another both through trained organizing and informal acts of community caretaking. Criminalizing immigration has ignited creative and loving intergenerational activism. The power of giving and loving, much like the “love-politics” that Jennifer C. Nash (2019) describes as undergirding black feminism, fuels an undocumented activism across the country. In the wake of state violence and social abandonment, undocumented individuals and the mixed-status communities they comprise create ways to live safely—and joyfully. In both border communities and those in the interior, I heard the same refrains over and over: “The community takes care of itself” and “I do what I can to help the community.” These refrains capture two interrelated issues at the heart of this chapter: one, the exclusions that noncitizens are forced to “endure,” as anthropologist Elizabeth Povinelli (2011) emphasizes in her analysis of sites of abandonment; and two, as #UndocuJoy on Twitter celebrates, the joyful ways that people rely on, trust, and care for one another. Trained members of mixed-status communities (both paid organizers and volunteers) counter carceral state-making and its politics of cruelty with movement building and rights work, while other (untrained) members of the community also engage in private acts of generosity. Building an infrastructure of support and knowledge, along with solidarity practices and “love politics,” is a powerful antidote to state exclusion, racialized surveillance and policing, and vilification and dehumanization. Yet these caretaking practices must contend with racist and brutal antimigrant policies— and individual law enforcement agents’ interpretation and implementation of them—that lead to exploitation, violence, poverty, and family separation. This chapter explores this tension, between solidarity practices of collective community caretaking and the devastating effects of immigration policing on individuals—including on those who generously give to their communities.

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THIS ERA OF POLICING, CONFINEMENT, AND EXPULSION The carceral practices of the current deportation era that round up, incarcerate, and expel undocumented migrants are a continuation of earlier eras of indigenous dispossession, slave patrols, and racialized roundups of people of Japanese and Mexican descent (Saunt 2020; Treuer 2019; Hadden 2003; Blackett 2018; Ngai 2004; Balderrama and Rodriguez 2006; Hernández 2010, 2020). Today’s criminalization, exploitation, and dehumanization of migrants unfurl within this history of racial terror, exclusions, and white supremacist tactics to build and maintain a nation premised on whiteness; racialized dispossession, labor extraction, and capitalist accumulation; and state-sanctioned police power. The surfacing of unauthorized individuals continues and requires the racialized surveillance and policing that are part of and that fortify a broader carcerality that includes more than immigration enforcement. The expansive immigration carceral state has emerged alongside racial profiling of Muslims after 9/11 and the brutal policing and mass incarceration of Black individuals (Shiekh 2011; Bayoumi 2008; Ralph 2020; Browne 2015; Alexander 2010). This is most clear when local law enforcement works together with ICE and the Border Patrol on a range of immigration policing activities: from routine traffic stops to immigration enforcement raids. President Trump’s use of the Border Patrol and ICE agents to confront peaceful protestors during Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 spectacularly revealed how these agencies are accustomed to operate without restraint or accountability. Undocumented migrants every day risk encountering militarized border policing, which, as the broader public is now realizing, happens throughout the United States and not just along the literal border. In order to chronicle how this extreme policing affects mixed-status communities throughout the United States, over the past five years I have conducted ethnographic field research in communities inside the “100-mile border zone” (an enhanced immigration enforcement zone that spans the entire periphery of the United States) as well as in the “interior” of the United States (ACLU 2015, Brennan 2018). While conducting research for a previous book project with the first trafficking survivors in the United States, Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States (Brennan 2014a), I grew frustrated by how widespread exploitation was in mixed-status communities. I met migrants who clearly had been exploited—just not exploited enough to qualify as trafficked (extreme labor exploitation under conditions of force, fraud, or coercion). While trafficking survivors have received visas to stay in the United States, their undocumented

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friends, neighbors, and coworkers have been criminalized.1 It is this gaping hole in a punitive U.S. immigration system—between offering relief to an exceptional few while millions live with no relief in sight—that brought me to this project. The U.S. government spends more money on immigration enforcement than on all other forms of federal criminal law enforcement combined. A congressional mandate, the “detention bed mandate,” has fueled record-high detentions and deportations. The mandate requires ICE to fill a daily average of 34,000 beds in detention facilities (Brennan 2014b). Racial profiling and arbitrary arrests have replenished this deportation pipeline through policies such as the ironically titled “Security Communities” program (S-Comm)—in which participating jurisdictions submit arrestees’ fingerprints to criminal and immigration databases—and 287(g) programs, which deputize local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws.2 The border may not be everywhere, but its policing is. Over 3 million individuals were deported from the United States during President Obama’s two terms, prompting the migrant rights community to refer to him as the “Deporter-in-Chief.” During his second term, the Department of Homeland Security exercised “prosecutorial discretion” and canceled the “order of removal” of many noncriminal pending cases. President Trump took policing to a new level by making all undocumented migrants a priority for deportation. Cases rarely were closed through any means other than deportation. Crimmigration—the fusion of immigration enforcement with local policing— has dramatically reshaped life in migrant communities (García Hernández 2019). Nearly one-quarter of Latinx people in the United States, for example, personally know someone who has been detained or deported (Hugo Lopez et al. 2011). Widespread racial profiling has consequences for all members of a family—whether documented or not—and U.S. citizens have been taken to jail along with their undocumented family members, friends, or coworkers. The very real possibility of police brutality prompted, for example, a documented woman in Raleigh, North Carolina, to plead with her husband to not put any stickers or hang anything from the mirror from their native Colombia. Even though he too was a citizen, she didn’t want him to have any encounters with law enforcement. Fundamental facts about undocumented immigration are lost in its politicization. Documented and undocumented individuals’ lives are entwined. One in twenty of all U.S. residents lives in a household with somebody who is undocumented. Over half of undocumented adults have citizen children and have lived in the United States for over ten years (Center for American Progress 2017). Undocumented people and mixed-status families live in big cities and rural towns. They haven’t just arrived. Nearly two-thirds of undocumented adults have

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made the United States their home for longer than ten years (Krogstad, Passel, and Cohn 2017). As the popular protest chant “Home is Here” makes clear, they will not leave. Nor can they. Leaving—to visit a sick parent or for a funeral— means risking not being able to reenter without detection. Psychologist Ricardo Ainslie’s (1998) description of migrants as “perpetual mourners” captures the emotional toll of being walled off from loved ones. Lifetimes are lived apart. Undocumented people are locked in the United States, while their loved ones are locked out. Militarization along the border doesn’t just keep people from entering the United States. Border security also walls people in. When deportations happen, loved ones often experience poverty, grief, and guilt. They also face wrenching decisions, such as which, if any, family members should accompany a deported family member. Deportees must decide if they should try to return and risk getting caught (and incarcerated and subject to a lifetime ban from the United States) as well as risk the dangers along the migrant trail. In the case of parents who migrated ahead of their children, they must decide whether to arrange for a smuggler to bring them to the United States. This is what an El Salvadoran mother decided after years of living apart from her seventeen-year-old son, Juan. When I first met them, in northern Virginia just ten minutes from my own house, Juan had just crossed the border with a coyote a few weeks before. His mother had left him in the care of her own mother years ago, when he was five years old. Back then he had cried himself to sleep every night. He reflects: “I always thought about my mother and wanted to be with her.” But over time, his worries shifted to who would take care of his grandmother once he finally crossed to be reunited with his mother. He didn’t want to go to the United States and leave her on her own. He and his mother tear up thinking of the grandmother left behind. Too frail to make the journey across the border “by land,” as they describe it, she likely will die in El Salvador without seeing her daughter or grandson again. In countries where out-migration sustains families through remittances—and ferries children and adults out of violence— living a lifetime together with loved ones is not expected. Loving across borders means there is always someone missing. The trade-offs are constant. When families decide to live separated, the grief can be unbearable. Late one night nineteen-year-old Francisco was deported from the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona to Mexico. It all happened so quickly that he did not have time to call his family in Tucson. The whole family was devastated, as they were hoping for his release. His five-year-old sister, Esmeralda, took his deportation particularly hard and could only fall asleep in his bed. The suspended animation that began when he first was confined to Eloy continues, with no end point in sight.

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Although he now lives with his grandparents in Mexico, his presence remains throughout the family’s trailer in Tucson. No one drives his car, which sits, waiting, covered under a grey tarp next to the trailer. A model of a cannon he had been welding in his high school shop class remains half-finished, on a shelf in his room. His mother says, “It’s better to be out and free,” and finds solace in her husband’s (Francisco’s stepfather’s) regular visits to see her son. As a legal permanent resident (LPR), he is the only person in the family who can cross the border and deliver clothes and other belongings to his stepson. On one trip he brought the family’s beloved new puppy to Mexico since it was cheaper to get shots in Mexico than in Arizona. When he returned without the dog, no one was angry, figuring that Francisco needed the puppy more than they did.

THE WORKINGS OF THE IMMIGRATION CARCERAL STATE If you’re in this country illegally, and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable, you should look over your shoulder. —Thomas Homan, ICE director, at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on June 13, 2017 (the week of the five-year anniversary of President Obama’s announcement of DACA), at which he asked for more than $1 billion to expand ICE’s capacity to detain and deport3

When the police enforce the law inconsistently and become the agents of lawlessness and disorder, it serves as a tangible reminder of the incompleteness of formal equality. You cannot truly be free when the police are able to set upon you at will, for no particular reason at all. It is a constant reminder of the space between freedom and “unfreedom” where the contested citizenship of African Americans is held. —Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (2016, 108)

Once she reached the hospital, nurses repeatedly begged the Sheriff’s staff to allow them to unchain the mother, but they refused and Chacon was forced to give birth while still shackled to the bed.  .  .  . (nurses repeatedly begged  .  .  . to unchain the mother) Still chained to the bed, Arpaio’s police staff refused to allow Chacon to hold her newborn baby. —Alma Minerva Chacon, found poem from Latina magazine’s “video: sheriff joe arpaio forces woman to give birth while shackled” (Pelaez Lopez 2020, 8)

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Never free from the director of ICE’s warning, undocumented migrants move about with a kind of “unfreedom.” Their lives might seem indistinguishable from those of the citizens who live on the same streets and send their children to the same schools and sports teams, but their undocumented status funnels them toward poverty, exploitation, and emotional limbo. This legal status limits rights, opportunities, and physical mobility. This is never more acutely clear than in households where citizen members, like five-year-old Esmeralda, have more freedom than their undocumented loved ones who live under the same roof. Undocumented migrants may not live clandestinely, but the significant obstacles and inequities they face are largely unknown to people living in families and communities primarily composed of citizens. Far from living “in the shadows,” undocumented migrants’ lives are deeply enmeshed with those of citizens, who often have no idea of their neighbors’, coworkers,’ or children’s friends’ legal status. In border communities, some of the citizens they live next door to are Border Patrol agents. Describing the sheer numbers of Border Patrol agents stationed along the border, Luisa, a DACAmented activist in Tucson, Arizona, observed that those doing the policing and their targets live “all mixed up.” Her own father, for example, occasionally does construction work inside Border Patrol agents’ homes. When on duty “on the line,” Border Patrol agents use millions of dollars of equipment to hunt the very same people who work in their homes, live on their streets, sit in the next church pew, and stand next to them in line at the supermarket. Citizens and undocumented people work, shop, worship, go to school, and play sports together. In some neighborhoods nearly every household has somebody who is or was undocumented. This mix of legal statuses is an open secret that leads to a host of contradictions and silences. John, a Border Patrol agent who works in the Tucson Sector, describes seeing people he has apprehended when he is out running errands. “They see me see them,” he explains. “But if I’m off duty, I don’t do anything.” His own household conceals many secrets: his wife, Josie, came to the United States without authorization. Although she now is a citizen (through a U visa because of domestic violence in a previous relationship), Josie’s mother, brothers, and ex-husband (with whom two of her children live) remain undocumented. At family gatherings, John’s job, and immigration status in general, are subjects to be avoided, even though Josie is so proud of her husband’s work that she took me to show off where he hides, waiting to catch people who slip between breaks in the border wall—just as she once did. Now Josie has set her own sights on enforcing the law and is trying to join the local police force. In the shadow of the border

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wall, she extended her arms and clasped her fingers as if holding a gun. Squinting at imaginary targets, she explained, “I want to arrest people.” What is happening “in the shadows” is the work of the carceral state—racial profiling, stakeouts, entrapment, arrests, detention, and deportation. ICE agents stake out gas stations in unmarked cars in the early morning in Jacksonville, Florida, and arrest Latino men getting their morning coffee. Border Patrol agents regularly park their trucks at the only entrance and exit of the poorest neighborhoods in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, “prisonizing” places where undocumented individuals are thought to live, work, and socialize (Shabazz 2015). Once entrapped, individuals like Alma Minerva Chacon in the previous cited poem suffer unimaginable cruelties like giving birth while shackled. The early-morning gas station arrests happen quickly, sometimes taking just minutes, and with few witnesses. Detention centers are located in areas so isolated that they often do not have a clean water supply. Deportation flights, like Francisco’s, take off, unannounced, in the dead of night. When law enforcement agents limit people’s freedom simply to drive to work, or to enter or leave their own neighborhoods, they put the deportation machinery into motion. These quiet disappearances go unseen by the larger public and unreported in the media. But mixed-status communities know. These highly orchestrated and capitalized activities to hunt down, incarcerate, and expel unauthorized individuals shape everyday choices and opportunities along the border. They keep populations in a state of vulnerability throughout the United States and demand that we not see borderscapes as sites of exception.

MOMENTS OF DETERMINATION When law enforcement agents encounter individuals who they believe may not have documentation, they must decide, often in split seconds, whether to ask for proof of U.S. citizenship. They also must decide whether to pull in the firepower of the U.S. immigration apparatus and alert Border Patrol or ICE. In my research on trafficking into forced labor in the United States, I called these encounters “moments of determination” because law enforcement agents also have the authority to decide whether or not to proceed with a trafficking screening (Brennan 2014a). The paltry number of trafficking visas issued to date is due, in part, to law enforcement agents’ biases, perceptions, and actions when they encounter migrant workers.4 The agents play a critical role in shaping the eventual outcome of undocumented people’s legal claims to stay in the United

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States. They can put undocumented individuals on a path toward immigration relief or toward deportation. Let’s look at a few examples of individual law enforcement officers’ decisions in encounters with undocumented people. They do not act in lockstep. As anthropologist Didier Fassin reminds us, the state “is more than a bureaucracy with rules and procedures.” Rather, a range of personal values, professional principles, and public debates “influence what the agents think and do,” and as they make decisions we see “moral subjectivities” at work (Fassin 2015, x). In Los Angeles an undocumented activist recalls, for example, being in the back seat of her Aunt Carmen’s van when a police officer pulled them over and asked for her aunt’s license. Seeing a baby and an elementary school–aged child (the activist) in the back seat, the police officer decided to give Carmen a ticket and impound the car, all the while yelling at her (in Spanish) for risking driving. After handing the officer her car keys, Carmen scooped up the dozens of cupcakes they had baked for a school fundraiser and walked the rest of the way to school with her niece and the baby in her car seat. Later, she realized she had forgotten to also take her bedridden son’s specialized wheelchair that was in the trunk. Too afraid to retrieve the car—and the wheelchair—Carmen instead made the calculation to begin saving to replace them both. In the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, Alma, the mother of a special needs child, tells of getting stopped by a local police officer who claimed she had run a red light. When she couldn’t produce a driver’s license at his request, she explained that she was on her way to take her son to see a specialist. Like the police officer in Los Angeles, this officer decided to issue a ticket for driving without a license and to not run Alma’s fingerprints through the federal database to see if she was undocumented. He also impounded the car. The mother and son waited at a Stripes gas station for a documented friend to pick them up. This police encounter could have ended differently: with Alma in the back of the officer’s vehicle and her friend taking her son home. Following this encounter, Alma was shaken up. Terrified of getting separated from her children, she and her husband adopted what I refer to as border improvisations to reduce the likelihood of run-ins with the police. Alma no longer travels for specialized medical care for her son, and she stopped going to English-language classes in a nearby town. “I can’t risk getting stopped again. What would my son do without me?” Her husband also significantly altered his daily routine. Ever since President Trump was elected, he stayed on the ranch where he works during the week, instead of driving back and forth every day. Staying off the road as much as possible, he was trying to minimize his exposure to driving-related police encounters.

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The trade-offs are not easy. Alma single-handedly takes care of their six young children. When Border Patrol agents blockade the entrance to her neighborhood, she asks documented neighbors to pick up a few items for her at the supermarket. After the 2016 election, many undocumented members of the community told of not driving at night when law enforcement could falsely allege that they were driving without head or taillights. Explaining how the election changed daily choices and rhythms, an organizer said, “If you run out of milk at night, your children don’t have milk with dinner.” Her improvisation was simple: she stayed off the road. The police (and in border communities, Border Patrol) know which residential communities have a high concentration of unauthorized individuals. By driving through them regularly, parking, and setting up checkpoints, they create chronic feelings of intimidation and insecurity. These checkpoints have been happening for years, before President Trump was elected. Staff at a Spanishspeaking community-based organization in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for example, described periodic police checkpoints (while President Obama was in office) at the entrance to a neighborhood composed mainly of Latinx residents. One of the staff, a DACAmented young mother, worried every morning and night when her mother and father drove to and from work since “anything can happen.” In fact, when her mother was recently stuck in a checkpoint, the police officer let her go with a citation for not having a driver’s license. Her daughter explained, “There was no way she could get out of it. What saved her— what saves us all here—is that we are not a 287g.” After President Trump took office, her mother did not leave the house without first checking Facebook to see if there were any posts about local police or ICE activity. She also signed up for PaseLaVoz, a free service that sends text alerts about police activity. These safety plans are essential in certain parts of town where police checkpoints go up a block from a Spanish-speaking mass, or near a quinceanera at a restaurant, or a barbecue in a park. Deportation does not just begin with law enforcement, however. State-sanctioned violence not only operates through official state agents, but also incites citizen-vigilantes to perform police functions. The violence at the heart of a system that deputizes neighbors, coworkers, and family members to inform on one another resembles aspects of repressive surveillance institutions such as East Germany’s Stasi. As these informal state operatives embrace and deploy the logic of policing, they in turn fortify policing structures and the deportation state. In Jacksonville, Florida, for example, a vindictive ex-boyfriend called ICE on his ex’s new (undocumented) boyfriend. Also in Jacksonville, a neighbor

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threatened to call ICE on a mixed-status family when they asked their neighbor to rein in the late-night parties. While policing the nation’s borders takes place everywhere throughout the United States—and by a range of actors, including these “self-deputized” citizens—those living inside the “100-mile border zone” experience particularly intense surveillance and policing. Border Patrol checkpoints on roads out of southern and northern border communities make travel further into the interior of the United States risky for undocumented people. To live in border communities is to live surrounded by a security regime: border patrol vehicles are parked on street corners and constantly driving up and down major highways; local police conduct stakeouts for traffic and DUI violations and then hand over unauthorized individuals to ICE or Border Patrol; and border wall fencing haphazardly appears, cuts out, and then appears again. As a result, community leaders inside the 100-mile border zone report high rates of workplace exploitation, domestic abuse, unwanted pregnancies, and untreated illnesses because of restricted mobility (Heyman 2016; Montalvo-Liendo et al. 2009; Salcido and Adelman 2004; Queally 2017; Griffin, Son, and Shapleigh 2014; Sacchetti 2017).5

COMMUNITY CARETAKING Facing rampant hostility and policing—by actual law enforcement agents as well as by assorted civilians—members of undocumented communities have gone into overdrive to build protections for their communities. Under assault, undocumented activists as well as members of mixed-status communities share tactics on how to live apart from the nation’s security state while simultaneously living as part of vibrant communities. They create and circulate, as poet Yosimar Reyes (2017) describes, an “underground railroad” of resources, such as which employers hire undocumented people and which smuggler can be trusted to deliver loved ones. Left out of state protections, they enact practices of care that build community infrastructure through networks of support and knowledge (Brennan 2017). A community-based organization in the Rio Grande Valley, for example, relies on dozens of volunteers to keep free summer camps open, host health workshops in their living rooms, and fan out through neighborhoods to register citizens to vote. They help train the community’s youth to organize on issues such as environmental justice. Some volunteers clock just as many hours as the full-time paid staff, who are careful not to ask too much of the already generous

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volunteers. “I do what I can for the community,” explains a particularly energetic volunteer who inspired a group of high school students at a youth summit. Speaking openly about her struggle with depression, she encouraged the youth to seek help coping with the ever-mounting stress that President Trump’s threats and actions created. In Tucson undocumented volunteers don’t just pitch in when they can, but run two immigration clinics weekly. Since the demand for assistance outpaces the number of pro bono attorneys, these volunteers have had to become experts on asylum, naturalization, DACA, U and T visas, and, because of an increase in arrests that lead to detention, bond. They donate a great deal of time each week to the community. Maria, a volunteer in charge of the naturalization team—composed of women who all are undocumented—explains why she spends an additional three days each week processing all the paperwork the clinics generate. “Even though we don’t have the opportunity to become documented—at least not now—we are excited to help those that are eligible.” She points out with a grin that, in time, these new citizens will be able to vote and that this too will help the community. In this way, she and her fellow volunteers imagine and invest in long-term structural change. Community caretaking practices can involve risk. Those helping and helped are entangled in a shared precarity: both could be arrested at any moment, including as they drive to immigration clinics. In the Rio Grande Valley, a volunteer named Sergio has had a hard time finding steady work without work authorization. He volunteers almost on a daily basis, which, in the vast expanse of the valley, means driving across four counties to host know-your-rights and other trainings. Since he has been deported before, getting stopped would mean jail time, deportation, and a lifetime ban from reentering the United States. Yet he takes the risk even though he and his wife, a citizen, just had a baby girl. “It’s like living in a cage here,” he explains. “People can’t travel to get affordable health care. Families don’t take kids anywhere. Many have not even been to the town next door. I do this work to make life a little better.” Sergio knows firsthand the effects of what Rashad Shabazz (2015) calls spatialized confinement: the Border Patrol checkpoints north of the Rio Grande Valley prevented him from traveling to Houston with his wife for specialized cancer treatments. Instead her mother accompanied her while he stayed behind, trapped in the valley. He counters this confinement not only with activism but also with small acts of mutual aid. With little money to spare in his household, Sergio quietly slipped a fellow “voluntaria” a $20 bill when we visited her trailer. He was worried about her sister-in-law who lived next door. She had just had

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a C-section, and her incision was infected. She went to a clinic, but they sent her home with bandages and disinfectant to clean the wound herself since she couldn’t afford to pay for care at the clinic.

UNPLANNED RESISTANCE Criminalized immigration and unchecked racial profiling also have led to unplanned forms of resistance. Israel, a successful Jacksonville businessman who runs his own construction firm and employs over a dozen workers, refuses to be treated unfairly. His vehicles are the most obvious signs of his financial security and business acumen: from his fleet of white vans that shuttle his employees to multiple worksites to the gleaming red pickup that he drives when he is not working. He radiates calm and quiet leadership. He works every job—from demolition to the finishing touches—alongside his employees, paying them so well that most have worked with him for over ten years. Israel’s cool demeanor and years of managing a company and a team of workers were on display when he was racially profiled and followed by a Border Patrol agent. As he drove back from a construction job in a sleepy beach town on the outskirts of Jacksonville, the Border Patrol agent was parked behind some overgrown trees across the street from a Mexican grocery store that sells Mexican foodstuffs and also sends money wires. The agent followed Israel once he pulled out of the parking lot. He eventually drove up alongside Israel’s van and signaled for him to pull over. Once they both stopped, the agent overheard Israel tell his three employees (in Spanish) to not say anything. Israel describes that at this point the agent “heated up.” “He got red in the face. He kept on asking me for ‘ID’—but he didn’t want the driver’s license I handed him. He wanted some form of Mexican ID.” Incensed by the valid license, the agent opened the van door and handcuffed Israel’s left wrist. The agent then said what was on his mind: “I know you are an immigrant.” Israel tried to talk him down, explaining that he spoke with him as if they were “both in line at the supermarket.” “I told him I don’t know what you are talking about because we are all immigrants.” In a rage, the agent then tried to pull Israel out of the van by yanking his cuffed arm and banging it against the van door multiple times. Israel bled all over them both. Unbeknownst to the agent, Israel had been filming on his phone the whole time. Later, at the Border Patrol station when the agent realized he had been recorded, he told Israel, “I hadn’t given consent for you to film me.” To this Israel replied, “I didn’t give consent to be put in your car.”

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After the agent set in motion the deportation process, Israel landed in detention for three weeks. He had enough money in his savings account to hire a good lawyer and post bail. His wife told their three citizen children that Israel was working on a job out of state. To this day they don’t know that their father had been in detention. Despite Israel’s calm in the face of fury and abuse, whether families like his can stay living together under the same roof hinges on state agents’ whims, temperament, and ability to control their anger. During my field research I heard many stories of stakeouts like this one, often of Latinx law enforcement agents racially profiling brown men driving white vans, a common vehicle for construction workers throughout the United States. As Marisol LeBrón’s (2019) research in Puerto Rico on policing as a white colonial structure underscores, racially profiling one’s own multiracial community grows out of and perpetuates white supremacy. By seeing these two sides of the carceral ledger—the police and their targets—in the same frame, we see the power inequities that undergird law enforcement agents’ decision to look away or to give chase. Israel asked me to include the name of the Border Patrol agent, Edwin, who, like Israel, is Mexican-American. By calling out Edwin’s racism, Israel denounces those who participate in policing structures (regardless of their background). The carceral ledger also includes people like Josie (the wife of the Border Patrol agent in Arizona) who do not officially work in law enforcement but nonetheless align themselves with policing. When she proudly shows off where her husband John hides to capture unauthorized border crossers like herself, and when she seeks to join law enforcement so that she can “arrest people,” she too endorses an expansion of white supremacy. Normalizing and endorsing policing lead to what I call surveillance creep, such as when immigration policing reaches into spaces such as schools and recreation centers. As a result, individuals must make decisions about refusal in the most ordinary of spaces. For example, when a Border Patrol agent visited an elementary school in the Rio Grande Valley, Frank, a fifth grader, kept his distance. Frank refused to take one of the yellow plastic bracelets with “U.S. Border Patrol” written on them that the agent was passing out to his classmates. This quiet insurrection largely went unnoticed by his teacher and classmates, but for Frank, it was consistent with how he was raised. While he and his younger sister are citizens, their parents are undocumented. They also are “voluntarios”; Frank’s mother can count among her victories spearheading a campaign to get streetlights installed in their neglected, low-income neighborhood. He describes his mother as “brave” for taking the risks she does for their community. After accompanying his mother to house meetings and protests, and testifying in front of the Texas legislature about

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passing legislation that protects parents of citizen children, Frank decided he wants to be president one day.

“HOW LONG CAN THEY KEEP THIS UP?” The actions of Frank and his mother, which “resist, rupture, and disrupt,” are in keeping with how Christina Sharpe conceives of “wake work”: insisting on life despite everyday violence by drawing on a long tradition of surviving and thriving (Sharpe 2016, 13). Writing about her own mother, who was not part of any “organized” Black movements, Sharpe makes clear that her mother nonetheless was “attuned to” the “larger antiblack world that structured all our lives” (2016, 4). Historian Robin D. G. Kelley’s idea of freedom dreaming also was inspired by his mother and the way she saw “life as possibility” (Kelley 2002, 2). He puts collective struggle at the center of fighting against “relentless violence,” singling out love as transformative. Quoting the playwright Naomi Wallace, Kelley emphasizes: “Love is agency. Trauma is not agency. Love is a creative and revolutionary force” (Kelley 2016). Despite the benefits of dispensing or receiving generous, loving, and creative activism, violence and the threat of violence can take a serious toll. What are the limits to dreaming and loving? Put another way, anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla (2020) questions the temporal logic of state abandonment in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017, when community members filled in for the state by (among other activities) directing traffic and distributing food and water: “At what point does resilience become a form of neoliberal endurance?” Under Trump, ICE interior enforcement was at an all-time high, prosecutorial discretion (closing cases of people with no criminal record), immigration policies became more punitive and one-size-fits-all. In Arlington, Virginia, a priest told a story during a Spanish-speaking mass about a boy in the community who had been having nightmares since the 2016 election. He dreamt that his house was filled with walls that were chasing down his mother. “Everyone’s mental health is affected now,” explains a Dreamer Mom, an organizer who regularly attends this church. Fixtures at a range of community events, these Dreamer Moms crisscross northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, dispensing advice in their pink T-shirts. Some put in so many “volunteer” hours that they engage in community caretaking full-time. This Dreamer Mom echoes Bonilla’s temporal warning, aware that living in a state of suspended animation and worry takes a toll: “People can’t sleep. They worry about everything—going to

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the store, protecting their kids, not being around people who will look at them. So they are careful. How long can they keep this up?”

CONCLUSION Let’s return to the tension, the breaking point, that I outlined earlier between the support and solidarity that accompany community caretaking practices and the emotional and material toll of this era of detention and deportation. During Trump’s virulently antimigrant administration, activists had to work harder to protect not only their community but also themselves. Luisa, who runs the DACA team of volunteers at an immigration clinic in Tucson (and who  has DACA herself), is usually optimistic and open to new experiences. She was shaken, however, when she and her mother were uninvited from their church’s ladies’ teas. Their (documented) pastor and his wife—who are Mexican-American like Luisa’s family—were unhappy that Luisa had been speaking in the media about her activism on behalf of undocumented migrants in Tucson. By censoring certain narratives about the Mexican-American community, the pastor and his wife participated in another kind of policing. The effects of this ostracization on Luisa’s family were immediate and far-reaching. They stopped going to church services and to Bible study, thus upending their primary weekly activities and evaporating sources of community and friendship. They found themselves isolated and unmoored. Although she is a self-described extrovert who enjoys new experiences, Luisa started avoiding new spaces and meeting new people because she felt “unsafe.” Their pastor and his wife’s injurious hostility also pushed her mother further into a depression that began when Trump took office. Potential clients for her mother’s house-cleaning services started asking for documentation after Trump’s election, and she now has very little work. Luisa describes that her parents have reached a breaking point; “they feel like failures,” she explains. With both Luisa and her brother in their early twenties, their parents have begun talking about moving back to Mexico. This has been Trump’s antimigrant architect Stephen Miller’s white supremacist aim all along. Luisa laments, “They look around and count more losses than gains. It’s not just with work. They have health issues and no health care. Lately they have been saying they wish that we never came here.”

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Whether driving to and from work or the supermarket, going to school, or even attending places of worship, undocumented people and their loved ones constantly confront policing by state agents and their accomplices. The participation of these actors in the deportation regime—and the wreckage they initiate—are both targeted and indiscriminate. It is not surprising, consequently, that Luisa’s parents are tired of trying to live securely in the United States. While her parents express defeat, Luisa, however shaken, finds connection and calm through her community work, just as historian Robin D. G. Kelley prescribes, to face down structures of violence and subjugation: “part of the answer is to love one another, to struggle together and not in isolation” (Kelley 2016). Luisa asserts, “Volunteering gives me power where otherwise I am powerless. I can’t vote. This gives me a voice.” She can point to her impact. When she goes to the supermarket, people she has assisted come up to her and thank her. “I take every case personally because this is the community I live in. The next case could easily be somebody I know. I see Moms I’ve known for years as a kid growing up. And they come in because their husband was just pulled over.” Luisa’s work at the clinic, Israel’s naming of Edwin and his racism and brutality, Frank’s spurning of the Border Patrol bracelet, and Sergio’s $20 offer to his fellow volunteer offer immediate, creative, and loving repudiations.

NOTES 1. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), enacted in 2000, created a new visa—a T visa—for survivors to stay and work in the United States. 2. Local police in counties with 287g agreements check the immigration status of anyone they encounter through an FBI database. These agreements are memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with the Department of Justice (Capps et al. 2011). 3. President Obama introduced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) on June 15, 2012, through an Executive Order. DACA grants young people who meet particular criteria a temporary stay from deportation and access to work authorization and drivers’ licenses. 4. Writing about the “enormous discretion” that law enforcement agents exercise, legal scholar Dina Haynes worries about the inadequate training on how to use “the power that comes with that discretion” (2007, 370). Two of the first attorneys in the United States to represent trafficking survivors, Kathleen Kim and Charles Song, also find that “bias” is at play—shaped by labor sector and gender—when law enforcement determines “who counts as a victim and who does not” (Kim et al. 2009, 44). 5. Border communities in the Rio Grande Valley, for example, are among the most “medically underserved areas in the nation,” with gaps in “public health services, poor access to care, significant health effects of environmental factors (water treatment, pollution, crowding) and high rates of chronic disease” (Castañeda 2015, 109).

252 Affected Communities REFERENCES Ainslie, Ricardo. 1998. “Cultural Mourning, Immigration and Engagement: Vignettes from the Mexican Experience.” In Crossings: Immigration and the Socio-Cultural Remaking of the North American Space, ed. Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, 283–300. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Alexander, Michelle. 2010. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: New Press. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 2015. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) 100-Mile Rule. .pdf. Balderrama, Francisco E., and Raymond Rodriguez. 2006. Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Bayoumi, Moustafa. 2008. How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America. New York: Penguin. Blackett, Richard. 2018. The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. /9781108275439. Bonilla, Yarimar. 2020. “The Coloniality of Disaster: Race, Empire, and the Temporal Logics of Emergency in Puerto Rico, USA.” Political Geography 78: 102181. /j.polgeo.2020.102181. Brennan, Denise. 2014a. Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Brennan, Denise. 2014b. “Migrants at Risk: How U.S. Policies Facilitate Human Trafficking.” Dissent Magazine, September 29. Brennan, Denise. 2017. “Migrant Resilience and Refuge in the Trump Era.” Anthropology News, June 16. Brennan, Denise. 2018. “Undocumented People (En)Counter Border Policing: Near and Far from the US Border.” Inaugural issue, Migration and Society: Advances in Research 1: 156–63. Browne, Simone. 2015. Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Capps, Randy, Marc R. Rosenblum, Cristina Rodriguez, and Muzaffar Chishti. 2011. Delegation and Divergence: A Study of 287(g) State and Local Immigration Enforcement. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Castañeda, Heide. 2015. “Mixed-Status Families in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas: Health Disparities and Life Along the US/Mexico Border.” In Living Together, Living Apart: Mixed Status Families and US Immigration Policy. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Center for American Progress. 2017. The Facts on Immigration Today: 2017 Edition. April 20. https:// cts-immigration -today-2017-edition/. Davis, Angela Y. 2016. Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Chicago: Haymarket. Fassin, Didier. 2015. At the Heart of the State: The Moral World of Institutions. London: Pluto. García Hernández, César Cuauhtémoc. 2019. Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants. New York: New Press.

Love Trumps Hate 253  Griffin, Marsha, Minnette Son, and Eliot Shapleigh. 2014. “Children’s Lives on the Border.” Pediatrics 133, no. 5: e1118–20. Hadden, Sally. 2003. Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Haynes, Dina Francesca. 2007. “(Not) Found Chained to a Bed in a Brothel: Conceptual, Legal and Procedural Failures to Fulfill the Promise of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.” Georgetown Immigration Law Journal 21: 337–82. Hernández, Kelly Lytle. 2010. Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hernández, Kelly Lytle. 2020. City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Heyman, Josiah McC. 2016. “Public Policy Struggles: A View from the United States-Mexico Border.” Practicing Anthropology 38, no. 1: 47–48. Hugo Lopez, Mark, et al. 2011. “As Deportations Rise to Record Levels, Most Latinos Oppose Obama’s Policy.” Pew Hispanic Research Center, December 28. Inada, Lawson Fusao, ed. 2000. Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. Berkeley, CA: Heyday. Kelley, Robin D. G. 2016. “Black Study, Black Struggle.” Boston Review, March 7. Kim, Kathleen, et al. 2009. “Conversation with Two Anti-Trafficking Advocates: Kathleen C. Kim and Charles Song, Reported by Srividya Panchalam.” Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal 1: 31–64. Krogstad, Jens Manuel, Jeffrey Passel, and D’Vera Cohn. 2017. “5 Facts about Illegal Immigration in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, April 27. /5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/. LeBrón, Marisol. 2019. Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence and Resistance in Puerto Rico. Berkeley: University of California Press. Montalvo-Liendo, N., D. W. Wardell, J. Engebretson, and B. M. Reininger. 2009. “Factors Influencing Disclosure of Abuse by Women of Mexican Descent.” Journal of Nursing Scholarship 41, no. 4: 359–67. Nash, Jennifer C. 2019. Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Ngai, Mae M. 2004. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Pelaez Lopez, Alan. 2020. to love and mourn in the age of displacement. Oakland, CA: Nomadic. Povinelli, Elizabeth. 2011. Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Queally, James. 2017. “Fearing Deportation, Many Domestic Violence Victims Are Steering Clear of Police and Courts.” Los Angeles Times, October 9. Ralph, Laurence. 2020. The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Reyes, Yosimar. 2017. “We Have Never Needed Papers to Thrive.” Arts in a Changing America. Sacchetti, Maria. 2017. “A Girl with Cerebral Palsy Is Being Held in Immigration Detention. The ACLU Just Sued for Her Release.” Washington Post, October 31.

254 Affected Communities Salcido, Olivia, and Madelaine Adelman. 2004. “ ‘He Has Me Tied with the Blessed and Damned Papers’: Undocumented-Immigrant Battered Women in Phoenix, Arizona.” Human Organization 63, no. 2: 162–72. Saunt, Claudio. 2020. Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory. New York: W. W. Norton. Sharpe, Christina. 2016. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Shabazz, Rashad. 2015. Spatializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Shiekh, Irum. 2011. Detained Without Cause: Muslims’ Stories of Detention and Deportation in America After 9/11. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. 2016. From #Blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket. Treuer, David. 2019. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present. New York: Riverhead.

12 Helping Refugees in Rural Germany Ambivalences of Compassion G R E TA WAG N E R


he majority of the people who have sought asylum in Germany in recent years arrived in the second half of 2015 (BAMF 2016). Their arrival unleashed a widespread desire to help them. Most Germans favored the acceptance of refugees during that time (Ahrens 2017, 6), and by the end of 2015, around 10 percent of the German population had volunteered in one way or another (Ahrens 2017, 42). They went to the big sports halls, which often provided shelter to more than one hundred people, to offer German classes; they baked cakes, donated clothes, and household goods; and they helped refugees deal with forms and their children with their homework. In the meantime, the European Union’s (EU’s) deal with Turkey was effective in ensuring that fewer and fewer refugees arrived in Europe (Soykan 2017). The ones that already lived in Germany mostly moved out of the provisional mass shelters. They successively enrolled in professionally taught German classes and found their way in their new cities. Many volunteers continue to support refugees. Particularly in rural areas, where no migrant communities exist that might assist new arrivals and where public transport tends to be insufficient, volunteers take on tasks that are essential to refugees and help them cope with any number of everyday challenges. The percentage of volunteers from villages with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants rose from 4 percent in 2015 to 16 percent in the following year (Karakayali and Kleist 2016, 17). These volunteers are no longer drawn chiefly from the “alternative” milieus that over the past two decades were typically involved in lobbying for refugees and asylum seekers. By 2015, their demographic composition had come to resemble the federal average (Karakayali and Kleist 2015, 3). This chapter is based

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on a study of volunteers in villages in Rhineland-Palatinate, a rural state in western Germany. Between 2016 and 2018, I interviewed volunteers and conducted ethnographic observations at village festivities, regular meetings for refugees and volunteers, and lifts to the local food bank. By getting involved in helping refugees, the volunteers reacted to two crises. The first was a crisis of humanitarianism that they witnessed via media coverage about families on the run and that made them feel compassion for the suffering of refugees. The second was a perceived crisis that they thought might emerge from a large number of new arrivals in their communities, which—in rural areas—had not seen much migration since the arrival of German refugees from the former eastern territories after World War II. So, on the one hand, volunteers helped in a compassionate way to relieve the stress that families had to endure. On the other hand, they had a normative agenda, namely, integrating refugees into the local context and teaching the implicit rules and customs of their villages in order to stabilize the cohesion of their communities and to prevent social and normative disintegration.

THE SUMMER OF “WILLKOMMENSKULTUR”: POLITICS OF COMPASSION Compassion is much debated as a motivation to help others. Some thinkers celebrate it as a core attitude that should be fostered and strengthened to alleviate suffering (Wilkinson and Kleinman 2016). In this conception, compassion deserves social support in order to give an emotional underpinning to political principles—such as justice—as well as to laws and institutions (Nussbaum 2013). Others criticize compassion from various perspectives: as a feeling that may be valuable between individuals but dangerous as a political emotion (Arendt 1963, 74–85) and as an emotion that “confirms the rule of inhumanity by the exception it makes” (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, 80). Many criticisms of compassion focus on the symbolic inequalities that helping based on compassion reproduces. Anthropologists have analyzed compassion as an emotion that structures and perpetuates hierarchies (Stoler 2013) and as a feeling that can produce a moral economy of inequality between those who give aid and those who receive it (Fassin 2010, 2011). I argue, that compassion is an ambiguous emotion that can foster solidarity among equals as well as pity that objectifies sufferers (Karakayali 2017). It is not in itself an emotion that perpetuates hierarchies; rather, it is the social context in which it takes place

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that determines if compassion forms part of symbolic domination. Compassion involves a process of judgment about the gravity of the case and the sufferers’ innocence in causing it (Berlant 2004; Nussbaum 1996), and this judgment is also political: in the politics of immigration, compassion can be used both to interrupt nationalist discourse and promote equality between native Europeans and refugees and to support anti-immigration discourses by portraying immigrants as perpetrators and fostering compassion with their potential victims (Sirriyeh 2018). In this sphere, compassion has a momentous symbolic dimension, enforcing collective identities. The welcoming attitude toward refugees in 2015 was not only a friendly gesture toward refugees but was also a symbolic act against nationalism. The summer of 2015 was preceded by years in which the German government had dealt with the Greek debt crisis in a way that had been portrayed as merciless in much of European media. In Germany, the austerity policies that Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble forced the Greek government to implement were opposed by the left for destroying social cohesion and the health and well-being of millions of Greeks. But it also gave rise to the right-wing party AfD (Alternative for Germany), which was founded as a nationalist pro-austerity party that campaigned against the German government’s financial assistance with the Greek debt crisis. In the years prior to 2015, German society began to divide over the question of who—if anybody—deserves help. The German economy had recovered soon after the 2008 financial crisis and thereby reinforced Germany’s power within the EU. Whereas the left emphasized the implications of Germany’s economic strength in relation to southern European countries’ economic struggles (Streeck 2017), the political right and most of the German tabloid press denied those interdependences and ascribed southern European countries’ economic difficulties solely to poor (governmental) performance (Otto and Köhler 2016, 49–50). When a large number of refugees arrived in Germany in 2014 and 2015, the AfD fully transformed into a party whose principal campaigning platform was opposition to immigration. The right-wing and anti-Islamic movement Pegida attracted thousands at their weekly demonstrations (Nachtwey 2016), nationalists and neo-Nazis attacked homes of asylum seekers (Benček and Strasheim 2016), and many Germans were reminded of the racist riots at the beginning of the 1990s in the towns of Hoyerswerda, Rostock, Solingen, and Mölln, which had become part of the German collective memory. Their wish to help refugees and show their compassion for them was also a symbolic act against German chauvinism.

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The reception of Syrian, Afghan, and other refugees around 2015 had striking parallels with the reception of Vietnamese boat people in Germany in the late seventies: initially civil society, politicians, and the media championed the cause of the refugees, but this positive attitude was short-lived. In both historical phases, a politics of compassion was at play, a politics that illustrated the precariousness and particularity of compassion as well as the symbolic inequalities that it reproduced. However, both historical phases also indicate compassion’s remarkable capacity for mobilization (Trommer and Wagner 2019; Ther 2017, 255–261). In 2015 German media portrayed refugees overwhelmingly as deserving refugees (Holzberg, Kolbe, and Zaborowski 2018; Vollmer and Karakayali 2017; Holmes and Castañeda 2016). After the photo of Alan Kurdi, the drowned Kurdish boy who had fled Syria with his family, went viral, many felt the need to act in support of refugees (Vis and Goriunova 2015). A few days after the circulation of the photo, the refugees camping at a train station in Budapest simply started marching on the highway in the direction of Germany, and Angela Merkel ad hoc decided that night to suspend the Dublin Regulation and to not close the border.1 Afterwards, she responded to critics by saying that if Germany had to apologize for showing a friendly face in such a situation, it was not her country. Under her motto “wir schaffen das” (“we will manage this”), she asked everyone to take part in the nationwide project of integrating refugees. Even conservative voters, who in the decades before had called for closed-door policies, suddenly started to engage in support for refugees, or—to be precise—in support for refugees who now lived in their communities. This “friendly face” and the arrival of almost 1 million refugees in the following months could have led to a crisis. And even though German nationalists might have experienced it that way, the sense of a fundamental rupture, administrative chaos, and the beginning of a long-lasting deep divisiveness in German society were largely prevented by the thousands of volunteers who helped manage the situation.

COMPASSION AND (DIS-)SIMILARITY Especially in the initial phase of volunteers’ engagement, compassion was influential in people’s decision to join the group of volunteers or knock at the refugee family’s door to offer help. Even though the feeling of compassion seems to lose its significance after a few months of helping and is replaced by more complex emotional relations, for many of the volunteers it was part of

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the motivation to offer help in the first place. They imagined how it might feel to be forced to leave home and to arrive in a foreign country without knowing anyone. Yet two ways of feeling compassionate with refugees can be distinguished: some volunteers emphasize that their compassion for others is based on the absence of any kind of hardship in their own lives and that the privilege they enjoy makes them feel empathy for those less fortunate. In the interviews, they point out how good their lives are, how many resources they have. They understand their volunteer involvement as a form of charitable giving based on lives characterized by economic and biographical stability. Other volunteers, on the contrary, feel compassion with refugees based on their own experiences of war and displacement. Their compassion is based on perceived similarities. In both forms of compassion, volunteers feel emotionally affected while imagining the suffering of refugees. The difference, however, lies in the ways compassion is grounded in individuals’ biographies. The following cases indicate that this difference is consequential for the precarity of compassion and a volunteer’s expectations of reciprocity. Tina emphasized her compassion with people less well-off than herself throughout the interview in the spring of 2017. By then she had been volunteering for one year. Her two children were already teenagers, and when Tina heard that refugees had moved to her village, she decided to help. She had sponsored a child via a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Vietnam for five years and believed that if everyone were to help more, there would be less suffering in the world. “I am very shocked that people suffer so much in the other countries, yes, very shocked. Because we’re so well-off.” At the time of this interview, Tina was supporting a family with four children from Afghanistan by driving them to appointments, supermarkets, and so on. She defended her involvement against criticism from neighbors who held racist views toward refugees and emphasized the need for compassion for refugees in their time of crisis. By the second interview in the summer 2018, her attitude had changed. She said her help was not needed as much because the family’s children could translate for their parents and they understood the bus schedules now. Asked if the refugees had become part of the village community, she replied in the negative. She expressed her disappointment with the fact that two of them declined jobs that volunteers had found for them in the local restaurant and in the kitchen of the village’s kindergarten. “They don’t want to become part of the community. And they don’t want to work.” I asked Tina what she wished for the future of the refugee families and she replied, “That they find a place in the world, a homeland, where they can live in peace. And where they also give,

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and not just take.” Tina no longer seemed to think that this home should be her village. The compassion that she felt in the beginning of her involvement was unspecific and based on her beliefs about sufferers. She expected receivers of compassionate help to act grateful and to reciprocate by making efforts to get off welfare. She didn’t regard refugees as having the right to live in her village per se, but rather it was something to be earned by trying to become part of the community. The case exemplifies how fragile compassion can be when based purely on stereotypical beliefs about suffering and when it’s not grounded in biographical experiences or political principles. Many other volunteers also cite compassion as a central motivation to help, but they seem to be less prone to disappointment and resentment. The reason might be that their compassion is based on experiences that let them empathize with refugees. Many of the older volunteers have experiences of war and displacement in their own families. They were children at the end of World War II. Some of them had to flee their homes in the former eastern territories of Germany after the war, and others had to leave their homes and relocate within Germany because they were bombed out in the last years of the war. In the interviews they remember how it felt to leave home and to be dependent on the help of strangers, and they draw parallels between their own and the refugees’ biographies. That way, they do not only empathize with refugees’ experiences of flight, but also with their experiences of depending on help and feelings of powerlessness. Heinz, for example, looks after four young men from Eritrea. Sometimes, he says, he argues with them when they are too inactive to solve their problems, but he seems to genuinely care about them. A few months after their arrival, when they were granted asylum, a different authority was responsible for their housing and moved the four to another town and into a mass shelter with fifty refugees, of which the four were the only ones who were black. Heinz did everything he could to bring them back to his community because they said they were attacked at the shelter. He argued with the mayor, wrote letters, and finally succeeded. His four “lads,” as he calls them, were able to move out of the mass shelter soon after. He registered them at the local soccer club and encouraged them to help out at village festivities, hoping others in the community would appreciate and accept them. So he anticipates his fellow villagers’ conditional acceptance of refugees. He tries to help the four Eritreans become appreciated members of the community and wants others in the village to see the four with his eyes. Heinz himself empathized with them throughout the interview and constantly tried to take their perspective, to see the situation through the eyes of the four Eritreans. He criticized other Germans for refusing to empathize with refugees and

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talked about the difficult childhood he had after the war, his sickness and his family’s poverty. One teacher had a life-changing influence on him that empowered him to succeed in life. “These experiences are probably where my compassion for others comes from.” In the second interview, one year later, Heinz still maintained friendly contact with the four and helped them with bureaucratic problems whenever he could. He and his wife were pleased whenever one of them comes over for dinner, and they hope to stay in touch. Zada’s involvement is also strongly based on her compassion with refugees. She grew up in Algeria and has been living in her village for almost twenty years. Since 2015, she has been volunteering around the clock. As she speaks Arabic, her help is in great demand, and she says she was close to burning out a few months before the interview and had to cut back. She draws parallels to her own biography: “I fled Algeria because we were bombed. But I was still a child, you know? I only know that it was really bad after that, pure poverty. When I see war on TV, I cannot bear it, I start crying.” When Zada married her German husband and they had children, they decided to live in a village in order to have a bigger house. But Zada never really got used to not living in a city. She describes her feeling when she arrived in the village that she and her husband still live in: “I thought I was in a cemetery. There was nothing, only a few people. No culture, no kindergarten, no school, nothing.” Zada feels empathy with refugees in the double sense of having to flee war and having to live in provincial Germany. She sometimes tries to suppress her compassion for refugees, but she says she never succeeds. “I am too emotional. When I witness something terrible, I start to cry. I try to help, hoping that then their stories don’t haunt me at night.” Zada and Heinz’s compassion for refugees is based on their own experiences of war, poverty, and helplessness. They do not consider their own help and compassion to be gifts that require reciprocation or gratitude. Tina, on the other hand, is disappointed by refugees who do not accept the jobs that the volunteers consider gifts. She deplores a lack of reciprocity from refugees who supposedly only take but do not give. She expects certain gifts in return, albeit primarily in the form of “making an effort” and attempting to get off welfare. These different ways of feeling compassionate relate to different conceptualizations of the gift cycle at play (Wagner 2019). Zada and Heinz see their help in the context of generalized reciprocity by “paying forward” to refugees help that they themselves received. Much of the critique of compassion focuses on it being particular, precarious, and fragile. Compassionate helpers usually seek recognition for their help and are disappointed when recipients are less successful or less grateful than

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expected. When their situation doesn’t improve as hoped, they get frustrated and may even vent their “frustration on the ‘empathizee,’ feeling an urge to punish them for trapping one in their world,” as Fritz Breithaupt (2015, 6) argues. This seems to have been the case with Tina, who felt very compassionate with refugees when she started to get involved but resents them now for not acting the way she thinks recipients of compassionate helping ought to act. The cases of Heinz and Zada indicate that when acts of compassion are based on similar experiences, the susceptibility to disappointment is smaller than when compassion comes from a position of ultimate dissimilarity. The reason might be that in these latter cases, people’s empathizing only refers to the perceived suffering of a person but doesn’t include their experiences of depending on help and dealing with the symbolic inequalities that come with accepting help.

COMPASSION AND RELIGIOUS DUTY Besides biographical experiences similar to those of refugees, there is another aspect that seems to determine how precarious compassion is. For many volunteers the ideal of compassionate helping is grounded in their Christian upbringing. For those identifying with the duty of loving one’s neighbor, feelings of compassion are less apt to evolve into disappointment. Some of the volunteers I  interviewed are religious, and for others religion does not play a vital role in their lives, but almost all of them have at least been brought up religious, and many identify with the general idea of charity (caritas) and benevolence. Especially among the female volunteers, helping others and caring for children in particular form an important part of their identities. The arrival of refugees in their village gave many volunteers a huge new purpose in life. This care is often given in a very personal way, while at the same time there is some monitoring and control when visiting refugees at home and giving advice on all aspects of life. One volunteer talked about making “house calls,” a term usually used in the context of medical professionals. Margot is in her mid-seventies and has been active in the Caritas association of her local Catholic parish for decades, but she never had close contact with foreigners until recently. She has been involved in helping refugees in her village since 2015 and has turned her garage into a collection point for donations. Margot lives alone in her house, which her adult children long ago left. She is proud that she was able to ensure that all refugee children in the village were well provided for: “Indeed, we’ve given birth to several babies here already.

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And of course, it’s quite an effort each time. . . . They’re all well taken care of, the babies.” She uses an expression that makes it sound as if she gave birth herself, which testifies to her identification with the accomplishments of the group of volunteers. Later in the interview she explains how she was raised with a sense of duty to help the needy. She remembers that after the war every time a refugee from the former eastern territories knocked on their door, her mother would offer a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. When asked if one of the families from Afghanistan in her village, in which a man lives with two wives, poses a conflict for her religious convictions, she answers: “That is absolutely ok. His first wife wasn’t able to have children, so what else should he have done? Just leave her? It was the same with Abraham and Sarah.” She and many other volunteers seem to feel connected to the refugee families, with whom they share the values of strong family ties and religiosity, qualities they find lacking among younger generations of Germans. Margot gains satisfaction in helping others based on her religious convictions. For her as for many volunteers, helping others is a return gift to God. Alma, a retired nurse, both the daughter of a pastor and the wife of a pastor, who raised five children, also deeply identifies with caritas. She voted for the CDU (Christian Democrats) her entire life, a party that had always championed closed-door policies and held restrictive views on migration before the unexpected decision of Chancellor Angela Merkel, herself part of the CDU, to admit refugees into Germany in 2015. Alma from 2016 to 2018 spent much of her free time with a family from Afghanistan with four children. She helped the mother find a spot in a literacy course, she supported the father of the family in finding work on one of the village’s farms, and she found an internship at a nursery for the family’s eldest daughter. She meets with the children regularly to help them with their homework. Alma helps refugees as a service to God: “We have received so much good. All the children and grandchildren are healthy and go to school, we have only experienced kindness through our God. Then you have to pass something on.” Even volunteers who say that religion does not play an important role in their lives often reveal in the course of the interview that they come from very religious households and the duty of caritas was held high in their families, especially after the war, when poverty and homelessness were prevalent.2 Volunteers who identify with charity rooted in their religious upbringing are less prone to disappointment partly because there is another perceived gift cycle at play: they expect less reciprocation from refugees because their help is not solely a gift to them but also a gift to God.

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NORMATIVE INTEGRATION AND BOUNDARIES OF CARE Many volunteers strongly identify with their villages and feel responsible for the cohesion of their communities. Volunteering for refugees’ social integration in their view is an important service to one’s own community. By helping refugees integrate into the local contexts, volunteers aim to prevent a crisis of their villages’ normative integration. Helping refugees learn German, find jobs, separate their garbage in the right manner, open their bathroom windows after taking a shower to avoid mold, register their children for kindergarten, teach them to ride their bicycles with their lights on after dark, and turn the music down after 10 p.m. are all attempts to preserve the normative order of their villages. Many of the volunteers assume the role of mediator when conflicts over noise between refugees and their neighbors arise or when refugees have problems with their landlords. Villagers who are upset about refugees’ behavior often don’t talk to them themselves but rather contact volunteers, asking them to explain the rules to refugees. Volunteers usually do not manage these conflicts in a confrontational manner. They try to promote understanding for refugees among their fellow villagers, and some volunteers even explain to hostile neighbors that they should thank them for helping the refugees, since they were ultimately doing a service to the community by teaching them the customs of the village. One volunteer told me: “But I do it not just for the refugees, I do it for ourselves as well.” And another one said, “All these people who criticize us for helping refugees and not fellow Germans, they should actually thank us. The refugees would not get along here without our support and who knows what path they’d choose if we didn’t help them find their way.” Many stress how complicated life in Germany is and how easy it is to unwittingly violate one of the bureaucratic rules and end up being fined. When in one of the interviews I expressed my surprise at how little fluctuation there had been in the group of volunteers in the last three years, the interviewee responded: “If I stopped helping, then Susi and Brigitte would have even more work to do and I don’t think that would be fair.” The degree to which volunteers expect refugees to adapt varies. Some strongly emphasize the necessity to tolerate everyone’s way of life and try to promote this idea among their fellow villagers. Others worry that the new arrivals might retreat into self-imposed segregation and stress the role of volunteers as examples and guardians of the social order. One volunteer says: “If I, as a refugee helper, lead by example and show them how our system works, then there’s no mistaking how things go here. And that, I think, is important, for them to know.” Another volunteer even compares the success of social integration in her village to the

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neighboring village, which in her view lacks social cohesion. Their situation, she explains, is more difficult: “In the next village they have quite a few ‘benefit scroungers’ living in public housing.” The village she lives in consists almost entirely of single-family homes that are owned by their inhabitants. Her community’s success in welcoming refugees and the fact that they are all well integrated she interprets as a result of the strong village ties and the absence of public housing in her village. Hence, volunteers’ engagement is intended for the benefit of not only refugees but also their own community. In defense of its normative order, volunteers exert their power to define the rules of their community. Volunteers judge their own and one another’s abilities to help effectively. Most of them aim for refugees to become independent of their help. “Helping too much” and the risk of “doing everything for them instead of helping them to figure out things themselves” are constant topics in the interviews. The way many volunteers talk about other volunteers who in their eyes do not draw enough boundaries reveals much about their own boundary work and semipedagogical self-understanding. Two volunteers in particular came up in several interviews because they supposedly lack demarcating boundaries. Like several others, Zada talks about Bernhard, a fellow volunteer who spends most of his time with the refugees who live in his village. She says she keeps telling Bernhard to cut back: “I always say, Bernhard, you are counter-productive. You destroy our work. He helps too much, you know? I do help a lot, but in certain cases I say, ‘they should do that themselves.’ ” Bernhard is a retired teacher of Catholic religious education and describes himself in the interview as someone who has always helped others. In the last year, when his wife was very sick, he felt torn between caring for his wife and caring for refugees. Since his wife has died, his days have become completely taken up by volunteer engagement. His goal is to practice unconditional love of one’s neighbor, even though he struggles to reach that goal, as he says. In the interview he talks about his immense exhaustion as a result of caring for others. The conviction of most other volunteers is that the scope of help should be limited to avoid creating long-term dependencies and that Bernhard has become dependent on helping refugees. The second volunteer who, in the opinion of the other volunteers, fails to draw the appropriate boundaries is Martina, a mother of two who befriended a family from Afghanistan who moved into the house next door. When I approach her for an interview, Martina is surprised because she doesn’t consider herself a volunteer. In her regard, she is simply helping her new friends and neighbors. She is the only one among the volunteers I interviewed who only has a Hauptschulabschluss, the most basic school qualification in Germany’s three-tier school system.

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Martina says that her children had played with the Afghan neighbors’ sons. She befriended the family’s mother and now meets with her regularly. Other volunteers complain that Martina drives them everywhere instead of explaining the public transport system to them. They apply pedagogical principles to a task that for Martina is not an act of semiprofessional volunteer work but rather a favor to her new friends. The fact that other volunteers can’t imagine Martina’s help as an act of friendship instead of a form of volunteer help reveals how unlikely equal friendships with the refugees are. The way most volunteers disapprove of the lack of boundaries displayed by Bernhard and Martina reveals much about their own self-understanding. Volunteers often apply narratives of self-responsibility and activation that are reminiscent of discourses in professional social work. They want refugees to become autonomous actors that use resources effectively and strive to succeed in the German labor market. The refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 came from different countries of origin, had fled different conflicts, and had diverse educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. In the early phase of most volunteers’ involvement, volunteers tended to talk about refugees in homogenizing ways—especially with regard to their need for help. Every refugee they came to know seemed in need of their support. In later interviews volunteers had begun to distinguish between those who were independent of their help and those who continued to welcome help. But more importantly, they started to demarcate between those deserving and those undeserving of help. First, many of the female volunteers explicitly aim to help women and children and feel less obligated to help men. They identify with women’s load of care work in their homes and see them as “definitely innocent,” as one volunteer puts it. Second, most volunteers want to help refugees who appreciate their volunteer work and want to cut back on helping those who in their eyes “take advantage of them.” Expressions like “they take it for granted,” “they ask for even more,” and “they impose on my kindness” indicate that volunteers want refugees to recognize the charitable character of their help and expect them to reciprocate with gratitude. Third, volunteers distinguish between those who in their eyes had an understandable reason to flee and those whose reasons they question. Annette, a volunteer in her fifties, told me that the father of the family she supports had told her that he had been driving trucks for the Taliban back in Afghanistan, which made her question her help for the family. When she had started to get involved, she had expected the family to be victims of the Taliban. In the end, she decided to continue her volunteer work for the sake of the mother

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and children.3 As the political and economic situations in the refugees’ countries of origin are unclear to many, they sometimes express uncertainty as to whether a person or family indeed had to flee. Middle-class migrants in search of a better life would in most volunteers’ eyes certainly not deserve their help settling in. This attitude sometimes leads to the paradoxical situation in which volunteers want refugees to be high achieving and to represent middle-class aspirations, but at the same time expect them to act like victims of war who are satisfied with a simple and peaceful life.

CRISIS, COMPASSION, AND CRITIQUE The German provinces have not experienced a civil rights movement, and there is no common reflection on racist and colonial stereotyping and symbolic hierarchies. Many volunteers’ engagement with refugees is also engagement on behalf of their village’s normative order and its preservation and is driven by the fear that migration would cause a crisis of that normative order. Hence many volunteers’ everyday involvement includes as many acts of kindness as acts of stereotyping and symbolic domination. There seems to be a surprisingly large amount of understanding and agreement as well. At one of the regularly occurring meetings between refugees and volunteers over coffee and cake, a volunteer told me that it was crucial that the men who arrived here a year ago obtained their working permits as soon as possible: “Because the Afghans deal with it just like us. Men go to work and women stay at home and look after the children.” There often exist shared convictions about the familial division of labor among partners; also, the more widespread religiosity of rural inhabitants creates understanding and nearness with often religious refugee families. In the villages I studied, many refugee families come from rural areas in their countries of origin as well. When I asked them if they hope to move to a bigger city once they’re granted asylum, most of them said they want to stay in the villages in which they’ve been housed and that they appreciate the quiet of their new homes. Before 2015, many volunteers did not have close contact with foreigners and were not active in refugees’ rights groups. It was not their political convictions that made them get involved. It was their compassion for refugees. This compassion initiated social relations that were unequal from the beginning but that nevertheless created links to a community that was not always welcoming. At a kermis in 2017, I joined a group of the village’s refugee families and a few volunteers to go to the annual liver dumpling eating event in the village hall.

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The mayor had arranged that a table would be reserved for the group, and the refugees were invited to eat for free. With a group of about twelve adults and some children, we entered the hall, in which about seventy people were already sitting at long tables. All eyes were on our group; the refugees were the only nonwhite people in the room. The woman from the local turnverein who served our table explained that this year there was a vegetarian moussaka on the menu for those who don’t eat pork and was visibly disappointed when no one chose it. When she brought drinks, there was one beverage that no one had ordered and she seemed upset that she had to bring it back to the kitchen. There was a lot of fun at our table, with everyone chatting and joking. But the afternoon revealed how little everydayness there is in the interactions between refugees and nonvolunteer villagers, how much mistrust refugees experience in the German provinces, and the fact that volunteers often form the only link between refugees and the rest of the community. Compassion is an immediate emotional reaction to a crisis one witnesses, but a crisis narrative, one of a rupture that caused sudden suffering, is often the condition for these compassionate reactions. At the same time, compassion itself is prone to crisis, as it is fragile and can easily change into indifference or even resentment. In the volunteering I studied, compassion’s dependence on a crisis narrative and its precariousness are apparent. Nevertheless, many of the relations between volunteers and refugees proved to be remarkably long-lasting. They changed their form and their purpose over the years. Sometimes the help became more formal and less private, dealing mainly with bureaucratic problems. Sometimes relationships became emotionally more complex when volunteers realized that the people they got to know were full of strength and joy and very different from their perceived images of victims of war. Many of these relations are deeply ambivalent and in a state of constant fluctuation between honest care and the desire for emotional distance. Compassion—although often criticized as an emotional basis of care that does not sufficiently politicize the social structures that cause suffering—nevertheless opens possibilities for critique. Volunteers criticized the way local administrations dealt with refugees. They criticized teachers who didn’t give refugee children the support they needed, and they criticized their fellow villagers for not being willing to see refugees’ perspectives and empathize with their situation. These criticisms were not grounded in principles of equality and political convictions, but they were enabled by personal relations that—without compassion— would not have come into existence.

Helping Refugees in Rural Germany 269  NOTES 1. The Dublin Regulation states that refugees must register in the first EU country they enter, which is then tasked with examining their asylum application. Merkel’s administration accepted refugees registering in Germany even though they had already entered another European country, Hungary. 2. None of the interviewees talks about the atrocities of the Holocaust and the lack of will among most Germans to defend or help those persecuted and murdered. They begin their narratives about the importance of charity and help at the end of the war. 3. Maestri and Monforte (2020) come to a similar result when analyzing moral and emotional dilemmas British volunteers face in their interactions with refugees.

REFERENCES Ahrens, Petra-Angela. 2017. Skepsis und Zuversicht: Wie blickt Deutschland auf Flüchtlinge? Hannover: Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut der EKD (SI). Arendt, Hannah. 1963. On Revolution. New York: Viking. Benček, David, and Julia Strasheim. 2016. “Refugees Welcome? A Dataset on Anti-refugee Violence in Germany.” Research and Politics 3, no. 4: 1–11. Berlant, Lauren. 2004. Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion. London: Routledge. Breithaupt, Fritz. 2015. “Why Empathy Is Not the Best Basis for Humanitarianism” (Global Cooperation Research Papers 9). Duisburg: Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research. Fassin, Didier. 2010. “Heart of Humaneness: The Moral Economy of Humanitarianism.” In Contemporary States of Emergency. Anthropology of Military and Humanitarian Intervention, ed. Didier Fassin and Mariella Pandolfi, 269–93. New York: Zone. Fassin, Didier. 2011. “Noli me tangere: The Moral Untouchability of Humanitarianism.” In Forces of Compassion: Humanitarianism Between Ethics and Politics, ed. Peter Redfield and Eric Bornstein, 35–52. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press. Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). 2016. “Migrationsbericht des Bundesamtes für Migration und Flüchtlinge im Auftrag der Bundesregierung.” Migrationsbericht 2015; https:// -2015.pdf?__blob=publicationFile. Holmes, Seth M., and Heide Castañeda. 2016. “Representing the ‘European Refugee Crisis’ in Germany and Beyond: Deservingness and Difference, Life and Death.” American Ethnologist 43, no. 1: 12–24. Holzberg, Billy, Kristina Kolbe, and Rafal Zaborowski. 2018. “Figures of Crisis: The Delineation of (Un)Deserving Refugees in the German Media.” Sociology 52, no. 3: 534–50. Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. 2002. Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Continuum. First published 1944. Karakayali, Serhat. 2017. “Feeling the Scope of Solidarity: The Role of Emotions for Volunteers Supporting Refugees in Germany.” Social Inclusion 5, no. 3: 7–16.

270 Affected Communities Karakayali, Serhat, and Olaf Kleist. 2015. EFA-Studie: Strukturen und Motive der ehrenamtlichen Flüchtlingsarbeit in Deutschland. Berlin: Berliner Institut für empirische Integrations und Migrationsforschung (BIM)/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Karakayali, Serhat, and Olaf Kleist. 2016. EFA-Studie 2: Strukturen und Motive der ehrenamtlichen Flüchtlingsarbeit in Deutschland. Berlin: Berliner Institut für empirische Integrations und Migrationsforschung (BIM)/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Maestri, Gaja, and Pierre Monforte. 2020. “Who Deserves Compassion? The Moral and Emotional Dilemmas of Volunteering in the ‘Refugee Crisis.’ Sociology 54, no. 5: 920–35. Nachtwey, Oliver. 2016. “Pegida, politische Gelegenheitsstrukturen und der neue Autoritarismus.” In PEGIDA: Rechtspopulismus zwischen Fremdenangst und “Wende”-Enttäuschung?, ed. K.-S. Rehberg, F. Kunz, and T. Schlinzig, 299–312. Berlin: transcript. Nussbaum, Martha C. 2013. Political Emotions. Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard. Nussbaum, Martha. 1996. “Compassion: The Basic Social Emotion.” Social Philosophy and Policy 13, no. 1: 27–58. Otto, Kim, and Andreas Köhler. 2016. Die Berichterstattung deutscher Medien in der griechischen Staatsschuldenkrise. IMK Studies 45. Düsseldorf: Institut für Makroökonomie und Konjunkturforschung. Sirriyeh, Ala. 2018. The Politics of Compassion: Immigration and Asylum Policy. Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press. Soykan, Cavidan. 2017. “Turkey as Europe’s Gatekeeper: Recent Developments in the Field of Migration and Asylum and the EU-Turkey Deal of 2016.” In Der lange Sommer der Migration: Grenzregime III, ed. Sabine Hess, Bernd Kasparek, Stefanie Kron, Mathias Rodatz, Maria Schwertl, and Simon Sontowski, 52–60. Berlin: Assoziation A. Stoler, Ann. 2013. “Reason Aside: Reflections on Enlightenment and Empire.” In The Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies, ed. G. Huggan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi .org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199588251.013.0026. Streeck, Wolfgang. 2017. Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism. London: Verso. Ther, Philipp. 2017. Die Außenseiter: Flucht, Flüchtlinge und Integration im modernen Europa. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Trommer, Isabell, and Greta Wagner. 2019. “Mitleid und Krise: Zur Aufnahme von Flüchtlingen in der Bundesrepublik.” WestEnd: Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 16, no. 1: 123–34. Vis, Farida, and Olga Goriunova. 2015. The Iconic Image on Social Media: A Rapid Research Response to the Death of Aylan Kurdi. Manchester, UK: Visual Social Media Lab. Vollmer, Bastian, and Serhat Karakayali. 2017. “The Volatility of the Discourse on Refugees in Germany.” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies 16, nos. 1–2: 118–39. Wagner, Greta. 2019. “Helfen und Reziprozität: Freiwilliges Engagement für Geflüchtete im ländlichen Raum.” Zeitschrift für Soziologie 48, no. 3: 226–41. Wilkinson, Iain, and Arthur Kleinman. 2016. A Passion for Society: How We Think of Human Suffering. Oakland: University of California Press.

13 Toward a Theory of Climate Praxis Confronting Climate Change in a World of Struggle DA N I E L AL DAN A CO HE N A N D DAVID BO ND


limate changes everything. Climate changes nothing. In New York, Hurricane Sandy was supposed to prompt a revolution in climate politics; instead, powerful actors, residents slammed by the storm, and community organizers interpreted the storm in terms of long-familiar frameworks and struggles. The island of St. Croix is vulnerable to sea-level rise and was recently battered by giant hurricanes. Facing up to these rising storms, St. Croix now debates whether to retrofit and reopen an obsolete oil refinery because that’s the only revenue source capable of bankrolling the investments in climate resiliency now desperately needed. Our fieldwork on the aftermath of these hurricanes, in two very different places, suggests that people’s reactions are more complex than either end of a simple climate binary. On the one hand, progressive scholars and activists see climate change as a fundamental break with everything that came before, tilting life into an imbalance for which there is no precedent and no guardrails (McNeill and Engelke 2016; Archer 2011). It is a revolution already under way, with dramatically positive or negative potential, depending on the scholar’s mood. On the other hand, progressive scholars and activists see climate change primarily as accentuating existing structures of dispossession. In its scientific diagnosis, forecasted impact, and proffered solutions, climate change is the logical outcome of historical projects of profit and power, and it should be confronted as such (Welzer 2011; Patel and Moore 2017; Estes 2019). We want to home in on a key tension between these dynamics. For a person— and a scholar—to absorb and understand the basics of climate science means recognizing that the world has irrevocably changed and will continue to do so.

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(We still believe the worst can be prevented.) In turn, that recognition implies a story of cause and effect: greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity—primarily the combustion of fossil fuels—are the cause of climate breakdown. And yet, in the social world there is never a “pure” climate politics; politics always intersects with already existing structures, cultural frameworks, power arrangements, and so on. Responses to worsening climate change are likely to lead to ruptures, but those ruptures will be shaped by complex interactions. Here, we believe that protracted political struggle—rather than, say, cultural symbol systems, lawlike economic tendencies, or behavior responses to extreme weather—will play the decisive role in shaping how people understand climate change’s interconnections with other issues and how they act on them. Our aim in this chapter is to use fieldwork from two different sites, each impacted of late by hurricanes worsened by climate change, to start sketching a concept we call climate praxis, remembering that while climate changes everything (Klein 2014), it is never about climate alone. We seek to emphasize how situated individuals and groups grapple with climate impacts in the course of long-standing efforts to change the world based on needs and normative goals. We expect these efforts to change and to increasingly foreground climate crisis. But this change will always occur on the basis of layered prior projects, such that the path dependencies of climate politics will obtain indefinitely. Based on fieldwork in New York and in St. Croix on the U.S. Virgin Islands, we sketch two particular ways in which political struggle informs how people engage in climate praxis. First, we show how people coping with climate change’s existential threat seek to domesticate it by downplaying some of its specificities and enormity and by tying it down to longer-standing frameworks and struggles. Second, we examine the contested ways in which situated reactions to climate change always draw on longer histories of dispossession. Our goal is to structure conversations that can lead to better theory, new research needs, and more engaged politics. We have never been convinced by the optimism of “ecomodernism,” the view that states, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and corporate elites will produce sufficient decarbonization and adaptation through technocratic means, by simply coordinating an inevitable shift to green technologies and financial instruments (Shellenberger and Nordhaus 2007; Gould, Pellow, and Schnaiberg 2008). But in this chapter, we also want to push back against the inverse optimism of many social scientists and humanists who find in ordinary people an intrinsic social and cultural resource for “good” politics, without attending to

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concrete economic, geographical, racial, or institutional specificities. The myopic focus on everyday people’s powers of good ignores the political economy and institutions and essentializes how people intrinsically are (whatever that is) in relation to the crisis to come. We do see grounds for hope in bottom-up politics, but that comes through messy, pragmatic political organizing and will ultimately depend on forms of democratic control over major investment flows. And we see this basic set of dynamics operating across a wide range of contexts. We have collaborated to think through fieldwork that each of us has conducted in two different places whose politics were convulsed by climate breakdown– charged hurricanes: New York City in the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and St. Croix during the 2010s, which were years of multiple brutal storms. In New York after Sandy, Cohen and colleagues founded the Superstorm Research Lab at New York University to track the storm’s aftermath. Their research included interviews with a cross section of 75 New Yorkers—18 elite disaster responders, 10 community-based organizations, 37 volunteer responders like the Occupy Sandy activist network, and 17 ordinary New Yorkers directly affected by the storm (several people belonged to more than one group). Cohen has since continued to conduct fieldwork and interviews on the city’s climate politics. In 2010 and 2011, Bond began a historical ethnography on what was once the largest refinery and petrochemical plant in the Western Hemisphere, as an example of how oil refining helped define the modern Caribbean and its ecological points of dissent (Bond 2017). Because of his research and the circulation of his findings among advocacy groups on St. Croix, Bond was invited back to the island in 2019 to join with residents working to oppose the reopening of the refineries and to work to envision alternative futures.

ONE CRISIS TO RULE THEM ALL? Climate conditions life. As climate comes undone, will life come undone as well? Whether by ecological colonialism, petrocapitalism, thermonuclear statecraft, or the globally advertised American way of life, it is clear that certain patterned human activities tilt the stability of the earth’s systems beyond the conditions that fostered the social forms of contemporary life and perhaps human life at large. While the impacts of climate change are already under way and disastrously apparent in places like shallow atolls, densely populated deltas, parched megacities, torched landscapes, and coastal communities, the greatest impacts of climate change remain in the future—projected sea-level rises and diminishing

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returns on maps and charts. It is on the authority of predicted future changes that the climate crisis can claim to be the greatest crisis of all. In light of those expected changes, climate breakdown highlights the structural fractures and built-in blind spots within historical projects of accumulation and authority, within liberal institutions of state sovereignty and free markets, and within the presumption of enlightened progress. As the historian Andreas Malm (2016, 4) has written, “Global warming is a sun mercilessly projecting a new light onto history.” In so doing, climate refracts and recenters the defining crises of the contemporary world around a new recognition and reckoning: the planetary tenets of precarious life. The climate emergency is simply so enormous that other crises shrink in comparison. For earth system scientists, climate change has marked the future as an “unintended experiment of mankind on its own life support system,” in the words of leading climate scholars (Steffen, Crutzen, and McNeill 2007, 614).1 Based in part on this science, economists and development institutions are reshaping the futures of whole countries, like Bangladesh, based on power-laden projects of “anticipatory ruination” (Paprocki 2019; see also Cohen 2021). Yet even as climate breakdown captures the imagination of young school strikers and critical theorists, climate is a curious crisis. Unlike the crises of inequality, racism, or even the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change unfolds over such sweeping temporalities and geographies as to be nearly impossible to fully grasp at the scale of human experience (Norgaard 2011; Hulme 2009; Jamieson 2014). So much of what we know and how we’ve come to experience climate change comes through the substantial mediation of climate science (Callison 2014). Climate science has a privileged view on the changes under way. Yet this science is far from disinterested. In the political history of its methods and the regulatory taming of its inquiry, climate science is a discipline born and raised within the halls of state power. As a measurable problem, climate change came into existence through the analytical infrastructure of the Cold War (Edwards 2010; Lepore 2017). Yet as automobile tailpipes have replaced thermonuclear holocaust as the primary means of mass destruction, the view of this infrastructure has shifted from monitoring planetary fallout to modelling planetary collapse. Climate science often presumes a powerful, benign state that has never existed. Meanwhile, we will show how the definition of climate change remains remote from many people’s everyday struggles, difficult to grasp. One might not guess this from public opinion polls, whose multiple-choice methodology creates the illusion of clear climate opinion. On the ground, however, we have

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found that when people working in the shadow of extreme weather receive an open-ended question on climate, they respond in all manner of complex ways, invoking narratives that range from inevitable human apocalypse to real estate morality tales. The prevailing scientific discourses of climate change, in their social existence as scientific reports, public relations strategies, and media frameworks, all downplay those myriad, messy ways in which struggling people grapple with climate change as they understand it. Paradoxically, despite their remove from social struggle, climate scientists frequently make some of the boldest demands of the present based on their forecasts of the future. They delineate “planetary boundaries” that are being trespassed without regard (Rockström, Steffen, and Noone 2009); they call for unprecedented, “rapid decarbonization,” with the 2020s constituting a decade of “Herculean efforts” (Rockström et al. 2017). For many scientists (and social theorists and activists), their scientific forecasts are ultimately a revolution occasioned by planetary necessity, rather than arising from historic momentum. Nothing would bring this revolution about like concrete weather disasters, massively disruptive events whose wreckage of human lives offers an irrefutable call to arms.2 We sympathize with the call for transformative politics. We recognize the depth of scientific consensus on just how devastating climate breakdown will be. But we doubt that the needed change will flow logically from the quantitative models of earth system science—or from a simple moral upswell transmitted magically from below. Our capsule case studies, which look at housing in New York City after Hurricane Sandy and at environmental justice in St. Croix after Hurricane Maria, show how struggles for practical justice and struggles for climate justice can link up or decouple around a rising regime of superstorms.

HOW CLIMATE CHANGE ROILS AMIDST PREEXISTING OUTLOOKS AND PRACTICES On October 28, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall near New Jersey’s Atlantic City, before smashing into New York and devastating the coasts north and south. The storm also tore through the Caribbean, wreaking especially fierce damage in Haiti. It was the first time since Hurricane Katrina had ravaged New Orleans in 2005, seven years earlier, that such a fierce storm had hit the United States. Sandy landed just days before a presidential election; the occasional

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climate champion Barack Obama was running for a second term. The billionaire Michael Bloomberg still had fourteen months in his mandate as New York City’s mayor—just enough time to revive his legacy as a climate champion. And on the streets of New York, the Occupy Wall Street movement was roughly a year old; in abeyance, but with its networks still strong. In the storm’s aftermath, that network reemerged as Occupy Sandy, coordinating tens of thousands of volunteer storm responders. If Katrina’s aftermath had become a story of American racial inequalities, Sandy’s aftermath had the chance to be something different: the story of a wealthy postindustrial city pushed from the political realm above and activists below into an unprecedented reckoning with climate change. It was a chance to link cause and effect, climate breakdown and the fossil fuel systems that caused it—systems that needed to be wound down. This was a moment when climate science could shed its abstractions and feel visceral. Certainly, climate was prominent in the public discourse. Just after the storm, Bloomberg endorsed Obama, citing the latter’s potential to tackle climate change; this endorsement provided a coveted last-minute boost from a centrist who largely avoided partisan politics. Obama was also embraced by New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie during a joint tour of federal relief efforts. By all accounts, the Obama administration’s competent response to the storm boosted his reelection effort—and hopes that a new round of climate policy, at every level of government, was finally at hand. Just after the storm, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a notorious cover headline, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” The climate scientist James Hansen echoed Bloomberg’s headline with a column in the Guardian, asserting what he presumed to be obvious and reflecting the common sense of many climate advocates at the time: the hurricane was “a stark illustration of the power that climate change can deliver—today—to our doorsteps,” he wrote. “Ask the local governments struggling weeks later to turn on power to their cold, darkened towns and cities. Ask the entire northeast coast” (Hansen 2012). Cohen and the Superstorm Research Lab did not ask the entire northeast coast, but they did interview dozens of people in New York who were affected by the storm or were working on reconstruction (Superstorm Research Lab 2013). They found something else: an ambivalence that accepted—but trivialized— the specific climate dimension of the storm (Cohen 2021). And none seemed less interested in climate change’s causes than senior bureaucrats charged with relief.

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As one senior disaster recovery official, prompted to speak on the storm’s link to climate change, said: Have we begun to see weather have impact and effects which have not happened in the last 50 to 100 years? Absolutely. . . . So is there such a thing as climate change, there probably is. Do I know the impact that it has on my city? Yes, I see it physically. But what does it mean to me as an emergency manager? I’m from the old school. And so until someone can tell me that this thing climate is actually—it’s real and how do I incorporate that into my plans I don’t look at it that way. My job is to deal with the facts that are in front of me and prepare for whatever emergency that’s going to hit the city. (Cohen 2021, 693)

Most of the disaster relief officials that we spoke to echoed this view. As another senior official put it, the city needed a “forward-looking strategy when it comes to climate change . . . forward-looking resiliency moves. . . . If we’re smart, we’ll come up with plans that are actionable . . . [so] we can be better prepared, bottom-line, when the next storm hits.”3 For virtually every disaster official we spoke to, forward-looking policy referred exclusively to adaptation and fortification; of the minority who mentioned decarbonization, only one expressed confidence that the city would make progress there. While climate scientists like Hansen took Sandy to be an obvious example of the cause-and-effect relationship between carbon emissions and natural disasters, most New Yorkers we spoke to situated Sandy’s strangeness in the familiar philosophical and material struggles that shaped their everyday lives. For disaster officials, the familiar struggle was disaster preparedness. For community group leaders, volunteer relief workers linked to Occupy Sandy, and ordinary New Yorkers, those struggles were more diverse. The lab consistently encountered people who seemed to be trying to domesticate climate change into preexisting moral and political commitments. When those prior commitments included climate activism or organizing, the links were smooth. Take one of the volunteer disaster responders in the Occupy Sandy activist group. That activist was already organizing against a new pipeline to bring fracked gas into New York. She said, “Well I mean the best that we can do is start immediately looking into renewable, renewable ways of energizing our planet. . . . We have this amazing sun that shines on us every single day that we totally ignore. I mean Europe is waking up to it.”

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Luís Garden Acosta, a longtime Puerto Rican social justice organizer and the director of El Puente, an environmental justice–focused community group in Brooklyn’s South Williamsburg neighborhood, likewise connected Sandy to climate issues he had long organized around. (Garden Acosta gave us permission to cite him directly.) For him, the storm was the occasion to plan a Latino Climate Action Summit, hosted in Puerto Rico, to draw activists and community organizers from Puerto Rican communities across the United States, to begin assembling the whole diaspora around a common vision. Garden Acosta saw a clear path to effective action, saying, “You know . . . we should never be in situations when it comes to climate change where we say well, we’re not going to, we’re not going to try to prevent it because it’s all over.” Activists who had worked in other spheres, however, often abstracted away from the specifics of climate change. One Occupy Sandy activist, who had spent a decade of her life organizing in solidarity with Palestinians and then participated in Occupy Wall Street, agreed that better climate policies were important. But, she said, “the real ideal would be that these [activist] networks would engage in reclamation of the common projects. . . . That’s what I see as like, if something has the stamp Occupy on it, those are the characteristics I would like to see come out of anything related to Occupy. In relation to climate change and, you know, a disaster like this, et cetera. I don’t know that that will happen but, you know, some of us will try.” For most community group leaders and activists, Sandy was a crisis in the sense that it exacerbated long-running inequalities in the city, rather than being a solitary event from which one could cleanly recover (Cohen and Liboiron 2014). And with good reason. One poststorm study by a number of housing groups found that 44 percent of surveyed public housing households located near the water’s edge had visible mold after Sandy; but 35 percent of those units had had visible mold before Sandy (Alliance for a Just Rebuilding et al. 2014, 2). What precisely would decarbonization achieve for these public housing residents in the short term? Indeed, many seemed afraid that climate change as a topic of struggle would pull them away from what was dearest in their activism: bottom-up mutual aid. But there was more than pragmatism at work. At times, respondents spoke in a way suggesting that climate’s threat was just too overwhelming to handle. A prominent civil society organizer in Red Hook neighborhood said, “You know our programs are mostly around helping young people get jobs, get into school, change their neighborhood, and so the climate change—you know, I guess

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in terms of some sort of neighborhood rebuilding, but again I don’t know. I mean what can you do? Aren’t we just fucked? [Laughs]. I mean in Red Hook, what are we going to do? We’re going to put the houses on stilts?” In Red Hook, most of the homes are multifamily apartment buildings and there is a lot of public housing—not the kind of home that can be elevated on stilts. Other activists also revealed apocalyptic fears, albeit in the context of other political visions. One Occupy Sandy organizer insisted that climate change was ultimately a story about inequality—and in a way that was almost paralyzing: It’s like people who have means—they have means to get out of a flood. You know what I’m saying? And so that to me is connected to climate change because the people that are going to suffer the most with climate change are the people who don’t have the money and the means, you know? And you know, like sometimes I wonder about the climate change thing. Is it even reversible at this point? Do you know what I’m saying? Not that that should just be like, “Well fuck it, let’s just do whatever we want.” But it’s kind of—I don’t know. It’s terrifying to me.

While many climate activists see linking climate to inequality as a fruitful way to politicize climate change, it might have an opposite effect: linking the challenge of “reversing” climate change to the seemingly impossible task of reversing inequalities. As Fredric Jameson (2003, 76) once remarked, “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” Certainly, for some respondents the language of climate change seemed inadequate to capture reflection about humans’ relationship to nature. One New Yorker badly hit by the storm said, You know what it could be, it could be a manmade disaster because people, my husband kept talking about global warming and a lot of people blame the things that happen now, like when things happen or when things are out of sync with how nature says they should go, because man has done so many things to alter nature and alter the outcome. I don’t know because I know before global warming occurred, or before man sort of had the power to manipulate nature and do different, things happened then. So, I don’t look to place the blame anywhere. All I look at is what’s in front of me. This is what we’re dealing with. I didn’t care about whose fault it was or whatever; my biggest concern was what are we going to do from here.

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Far from Hansen’s prediction that Sandy exemplified climate change, we found people acknowledging climate while settling into more familiar, foundational discourses. One concrete, everyday issue in New York that has an almost existential hold on New Yorkers’ minds was housing and real estate. These were the source of many New York fortunes, the economic sector that literally shaped the city’s built environment, and the potential source of eviction and foreclosure. In the Bloomberg era, gentrification often evoked the specter of colonialism; the savagery of housing inequalities was a bit like the empire come home. And this wasn’t new. Housing precarity has defined the lives of most New Yorkers for well over a century (Plunz 2016). It was through damage—or destruction—of homes that so many experienced Sandy. And Bloomberg framed much of the response to Sandy not just in terms of repairing that damage, but more broadly as a politics of redevelopment (Greenberg 2014); community groups often found that postdisaster struggles quickly turned into battles over the terms of new building construction. Repeatedly, interviewees across categories answered questions about climate change with reference to housing. One respondent, when asked what could be done to prevent a recurrence of Sandy’s devastation, raised New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s idea of buying out some flooded homeowners. The respondent approved of giving some neighborhoods “back to nature [to] protect other properties further in. . . . Maybe we shouldn’t be in certain places as human beings. Maybe we don’t need to be on the edge of a beach or whatever.” Another affected resident likewise urged relocation: “Move to higher ground. I don’t know. I mean I know that, you know, there’s CO2 emissions and all that thing and renewable energies, which sounds really good. I don’t see it happening unfortunately. That’s probably the only way to, I don’t know if these things can be reversed, but at least, like, mitigated or slowed down. That would probably be a good idea. I don’t know.” One organizer with Occupy Sandy reported that the affected residents they organized with were agonizing mostly about their housing, including the new mandate that people living in the most flood-vulnerable areas should spend tens of thousands of dollars to elevate their home. The organizer said they encountered “anxiety around elevating [their homes] or not. So it’s like, ‘I need to be back in my home. I need to, like, get a sense of normalcy. But I can’t do it again.’ And there are people who are leaving. There are a number of people who I’ve talked to who they’re like, ‘I never want to swim out of my house again.’ ” The sociologists Javier Auyero and Debora Swistún (2008) have argued, based on fieldwork in a poor, heavily contaminated neighborhood on the edge of

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Buenos Aires, that people often struggle to confront the facts about their own poisoning because of “relational anchoring”: they cathect more to long-standing habits than to troubling but uncertain new information. After Sandy, even massive disruption seemed to collide with this dynamic—the storm was simply easier to situate in more familiar, already existing frameworks and habits. To be sure, many organized civil society groups grappled with the specifics of climate policy. And yet in a kind of “selective continuity,” housing, labor, and environmental justice groups focused almost exclusively in Sandy’s aftermath on channeling funds for adaptation and rebuilding in an equitable manner, rather than demanding more aggressive decarbonization (Cohen 2021). No doubt, this focus partly reflected the fact that the Bloomberg administration likewise pivoted away from low-carbon policy efforts like reducing car use and tightening building energy efficiency requirements that had stagnated before Sandy. After the storm, administrators focused almost entirely on adaptation for the remaining fourteen months of their term (Cohen 2021). With public investments directed toward defensive fortification, prompting localized political fights over the details of redevelopment (Graham, Debucquoy, and Anguelovski 2016; Greenberg 2014), and people on the ground wrestling the storm into more familiar narratives and everyday concerns, there was little impetus for a larger conversation about carbon and energy systems. This was not a case of pure “postpolitical” technocracy and/or popular acquiescence (Swyngedouw 2011). Rather, across the categories of New Yorkers the lab spoke with, the idea of climate change was in part incorporated into already existing struggles, and in part relegated to transcendent narratives (humans’ relationship to nature) that were beyond the reach of really existing everyday politics. To a large extent, this tendency reflected the fact that major public funding from all levels of government for relief and reconstruction had little to do with decarbonization (Cohen 2021). In that context, neither the storm itself, nor the climate scientists’ discourse about it, could turn post-Sandy politics into a low-carbon mobilization. But these politics were neither inevitable—nor permanent. Just seven and a half months after Sandy hit, Cohen went to the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club in South Brooklyn to observe an evening of Occupy Sandy activists reflecting on what they had—and had not—achieved in their activism. This was not a conventional “yacht club.” The clubhouse consisted of a dimly lit bar and dining area that looked like countless of American dive bars. Using bright markers, activists wrote ideas on large pieces of butcher paper masking-taped to the walls. Many drank cheap beer from glass bottles.

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For Cohen, the most striking pattern to emerge from the self-critique was the number of activists who said they wished that during their everyday volunteer relief work they had organized more around, and talked more about, climate change and climate politics. Soon, they would. In 2014, the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon planned a climate summit to take place in September. Progressive groups from across civil society, including Occupy Sandy organizers and environmental justice groups whose members had been hit hard by the storm, organized a massive march to coincide with the event. New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, sought to distinguish himself from Bloomberg. On the eve of the summit, he released a more aggressive decarbonization plan. On September 21, over 400,000 people walked the city’s streets in the People’s Climate March. The demands were vague—largely centered on green jobs and investing in vulnerable communities. But in the march’s aftermath, key organizers in the city decided that de Blasio’s new plan could serve as the basis for a new campaign—this time focused on decarbonization, but in a way that protected low-income tenants and created jobs for working-class communities of color. The Climate Works for All coalition, composed of progressives, labor groups, housing justice groups, and environmental justice advocates, formed around a proposed low-carbon buildings bill that would avoid displacing tenants. The campaign’s leaders referred constantly to Sandy to explain and justify the policy, even though the coalition formed almost two years after the storm and the policy itself had little to do with recovery from Sandy. In April 2019, after a long, uneven campaign, the city council passed the New York Climate Mobilization Act, likely the country’s most aggressive low-carbon buildings bill, thanks to activist and grassroots pressure that pushed city councilors to approve a bill opposed by the city’s powerful real estate industry. Cohen attended the vote in council, sitting in the balcony with housing and environmental justice organizers. Indeed, the housing movement support was key. The bill was specifically crafted by City Councilor Costa Constantanides to avoid triggering “major capital improvements” clauses in rent-regulated and senior-assisted housing that would have facilitated rent increases. As Constantanides said while introducing the bill, “We have ensured that this does not fall on the backs of the most vulnerable.” He went on to cite the city neighborhoods that would be “wiped off the map” by unchecked climate change, and he noted that his children and (future) grandchildren would demand real action. But perhaps most importantly, he then cited three supporters who were in the balcony, the political muscle behind the bill: a leader from a municipal union (DC-37), the director of a labor and

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economic justice nonprofit (Align), and the climate organizer of a housing and racial justice movement (New York Communities for Change). It was not climate scientists—or climate economists—who framed the winning arguments. Rather, it was political organizers and their elected allies who had found a way to situate climate change in everyday struggles over rent and employment. The climate praxis found after the storm, and in the legislative campaign that followed, was never automatic or cleanly shaped. New Yorkers also confronted fossil fuel production indirectly, through building energy use and a handful of contested gas pipelines. While the city’s financial industry funded fossil fuel extraction around the world and the city’s cultural institutions benefited from the philanthropy of major oil executives (Cohen 2016), the city escaped the kind of visceral petro-cum-climate politics found in St. Croix, where a major oil refinery long dominated the island’s economy. To grapple with these politics, we widen the lens for a more encompassing view.

HOW CLIMATE CHANGE DRAWS IN LONGER HISTORIES OF DISPOSSESSION In the summer of 2011, the Hovensa refinery on St. Croix broke down in spectacular fashion. That summer explosions rattled the neighborhoods around the refinery as black smoke draped the verdant landscape in what looked like sooty cloaks. Explosion after explosion was followed by emergency warnings to shelter indoors, and refinery employees in hazmat suits went door to door to skim the oily surface off residential rain catchment basins. Built in 1967, the Hovensa refinery soon became the largest oil refinery and petrochemical plant in the world, an imperial feat that unfolded under the radar of popular and scholarly considerations of the wider Caribbean. As students and leaders of the Caribbean rallied around the image of the sugar plantation in the making of the region, huge oil refineries such as Hovensa became the largest site of foreign investment in the Caribbean, a leading source of state revenue, and one of the region’s primary employers. Bond’s research unpacked this neglected history, charting how entrepôt oil refining advanced a new geography of U.S. empire and sparked novel forms of ecological resistance across the Caribbean (Bond 2017). During its heyday, Hovensa generated enough revenue to transform the modest island of St. Croix into a paragon petrostate. On paper, the economy flourished as the territorial government was flush with refinery tariffs, almost

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magically able to hire its way through every economic downturn. As is so often the case, such fiscal wealth came at tremendous ecological cost. The explosions of 2011 helped bring Hovensa’s imperial place on the island—its exported profits and gathered injuries—into unsettling focus. As explosions continued, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigators were sent in. They soon uncovered long-standing practices of deferred maintenance and questionable shortcuts, even as several joined with executive staff from the refinery at tropically themed evening parties that flowed with booze and lavish meals. Contamination, it turns out, was built into the design. As one investigator explained to Bond, “Every pipeline carrying a saleable product was built above ground. Every pipeline that carried waste products was installed below ground.” Comprising six miles of cast iron pipeline, some up to thirty inches in diameter, the entire waste stream was buried in the salty sand. The pipelines started rusting almost immediately. In 1982, the refinery estimated that 300,000 barrels of petrochemicals had leaked from these pipelines and formed a petrochemical slick some ten feet thick floating on top of the island’s only aquifer. At one point, construction workers on the south shore stood back in surprise as a geyser of crude oil shot out of the hole they were digging. They thought they’d hit it big until the dismal reality of the situation became clear: they had tapped into a shockingly large plume of petrochemicals flowing from the refinery. An internal investigation in 2001 revealed that 95 percent of the waste-stream pipelines were leaking, and by 2005 the refinery concluded they were “deteriorated beyond repair.” Yet the refinery continued to operate as if nothing were amiss. By 2010, over 1 million barrels of oil had been extracted from the plume beneath the plant—an amount four times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill—yet the remediation of the plume was nowhere in sight. Carcinogenic vapors from petrochemicals are now readily detected in homes and neighborhoods along the south shore of St. Croix. When an EPA official came to St. Croix in 2011 to address the severity of what had been uncovered, he was shouted off the stage by residents furious over decades of quiet neglect. Beyond corroded infrastructure, investigators also uncovered a history of shoddy practices that routinely sacrificed public health on the altar of operational ease and corporate returns. Workers told Bond stories of venting benzene under the cover of night on an island where residents still get their drinking water from cisterns, and of flushing mercury down the drain into a bay still popular among local fishermen. Facing potentially record-breaking fines for this liable history of disregard, Hovensa agreed to settle with the EPA in 2011. The

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refinery agreed to pay a $5.3 million fine, and, in lieu of penalties, committed $700 million to extensive remediation, state-of-the-art pollution controls, and substantial investments in public health on St. Croix (including a cancer register to investigate residents’ worst suspicions). At the time, this settlement was the largest on record for a refinery in the United States. After finalizing the settlement, Hovensa shut down and filed for bankruptcy in February 2012. This action not only sidestepped its legal obligation to clean up its own mess but also compelled draconian cuts to the territorial government budget. When the refinery shut its doors, 20 percent of the territory’s annual budget disappeared in an instant. The closed refinery had “shaken the foundations” of St. Croix, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands said at the time, forcing cuts that were nothing short of “catastrophic.” Unemployment soon shot up to nearly 20 percent and energy costs skyrocketed (the refinery had long subsidized electricity and gasoline rates) as the state’s governing capacity hemorrhaged. Crime rates on St. Croix rose substantially as theft and assault became commonplace (a United Nations report notes that the U.S. Virgin Islands now has the fourth highest homicide rate in the world). One year out, the U.S. Virgin Islands labor commissioner testified his surprise that there hadn’t been a complete meltdown on St. Croix. “But,” he added, “it has only been a year.” Catastrophe built on catastrophe. With St. Croix still in a tailspin, an unprecedented Category 5 hurricane brushed up against St. Croix in 2017, causing considerable damage. Two weeks later, a second Category 5 hurricane slammed directly into St. Croix, leaving nearly every building on the island in tatters and obliterating most public infrastructure. Ninety percent of all electrical transmission lines were destroyed. The back-to-back superstorms inflicted “widespread catastrophic damage,” as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put it, and uninsured damages exceeded $7 billion. The hurricanes blew away roughly one in ten jobs on the island and hacked an already emaciated public purse in half. Unemployment claims spiked to twice their previous high point: the closure of the refinery. The territorial government found itself downgraded and beyond bankrupt, unable to secure aid to meet its dire need or able to renegotiate its debt obligations. Three years on, congressionally allocated funds for recovery remain a fading promise in this Caribbean territory. The plight of St. Croix clarifies exactly what “colonial” means in the present tense. In 2018, a year after one of the worst hurricane seasons in recorded history, Caribbean nations gathered to discuss climate resilience in the region. Many spoke of weaning themselves off fossil fuels and building green economies. The enthusiasm was clear: the Caribbean was poised to become the premier laboratory

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for redesigning societies beyond oil. Then the U.S. Virgin Islands stepped on stage. Their plans for climate resiliency pivoted on one idea: restart the refinery. When pushed, officials spoke about the rising challenges and costs that climate change was bringing to the island with storms like Hurricane Irma and Maria. How could the territorial government bear these costs without the refinery? The oil industry may be morally bankrupt and complicit in the coming catastrophe, but who else is still capable of paying the bills? Over the past two years, the territorial government has facilitated the sale of the refinery with generous tax breaks and promises to absolve the new owners of any responsibility for the legacy of contamination. The ongoing negotiations around restarting the refinery, according to recently disclosed internal EPA emails, “is receiving high visibility inside the beltway” in DC and is being used to showcase wider efforts to remake environmental protections as customer service for corporations. Assisting the new owners with “anything they need,” wrote one senior EPA official, offers “a pilot for a broader customer liaison concept” in environmental enforcement (Hiar 2019, 1). In this statement, the EPA seemed intent on ensuring that the new owners need not address the built-in flaws in the waste streams or the petrochemical contamination of the island. Indeed, recent EPA grants appeared to use taxpayer funds to supplement the legal obligations of the refinery to install air-monitoring equipment. In 2020, the overriding priority of the EPA was restarting one of the largest and dirtiest—indeed, most criminally negligent—oil refineries in the world. The EPA, one senior official wrote, “understands that restarting the operations at the former Hovensa site would significantly benefit the economic health and well-being of the US Virgin Islands,” something “especially important for the recovery of the US Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria” (EPA 2017, 1). The advice from Trump’s EPA was clear: to survive the turbulence of climate change, we have no choice but to double down on the fiscal promise of oil. When Bond visited St. Croix in the summer of 2019, the island still bore the impact of the superstorms. Tattered blue tarps fluttered atop buildings. Many former homes and businesses still lay in a mess of rubble and fallen trees, while whole sections of the main towns remained boarded up. Hurricane Maria destroyed eight of the thirteen public schools on St. Croix. Some three years later, reopening them remains a distant event. The sole hospital on the island now operates in patched-together units and temporary modules as the main building stands condemned, its roof leaking and the hallways overtaken with mold. A replacement hospital has been promised for years now, but construction is ever deferred. Medical care has been reduced to triage and basic care. Most everything

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else is referred to Puerto Rico or Florida. The island continues to lose residents. Those who remain wait on promises still receding. The refinery, however, is abuzz with activity. Bond watched as piles of equipment twisted and broken in the storm were bulldozed to one side while a man camp had been set up to house the thousand workers from Texas and Louisiana tasked with getting the refinery operational again. Locals were promised jobs in the rebuilding project, but so far the only work to be found was providing menial services to the man camp in the evenings and on weekends. No one is entirely certain about the current levels of pollution around the refinery, as most of the environmental monitoring equipment stopped working when the hurricane hit. In June 2019, local environmental and civic leaders gathered to discuss the urgent necessity of rebuilding St. Croix. One of the aims of this convening was to envision an energy system on St. Croix that was accountable to people and the earth. The organizers asked if Bond might join them to share his historical research on the refinery. They came together for two days at the still-shuttered Carambola Resort, with tarps stapled on damaged roofs and a beachside pool still full of debris. For many residents, the environmental injustice of the refinery and arrival of new superstorms were not unrelated events. They form a single continuum of fossil-fueled disaster, a continuum that had to be broken if there was any chance of rebuilding with real hope. “From Hovensa to Maria, there has been a plan to keep us down. We got to seek justice together.” “Why should we bear the burden for things others have profited from?” “Rebuilding is not enough, we must reclaim the land.” One preacher offered an even longer history, noting that “white supremacy and extractive capitalism are bound up together. They only see black people as something to use up and cast away.” “Oil sabotaged our island,” a local farmer reflected on the last day, “and now it’s up to us to set things right.” As residents talked over the present plight for several days, the moment felt both desperate and pregnant with possibility. Again and again, someone would interrupt long pauses in discussions about the immensity of the challenge with the same refrain: “We need justice.” And justice started with calling the fossil fuel industry to account for both the rampant contamination of the island and its stark vulnerability to the rising storms caused by planetary instability. The negative ecologies of fossil fuels assail St. Croix from two sides, as it were: a catastrophic history of neglect and a catastrophic future of climate instability. For state agencies and financial investors (and some strains of social theory), the answer to this conundrum is clear: it is only by turning our backs on the

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historical present that we can fully face up to the demands of the future. For the state, rebooting the refinery is the last gamble still offering winnings that are adequate to the great transformation now needed (without, of course, disrupting the neoliberal order of things). But doing so involves a technical baptism to wash the still-simmering history of toxic contamination from the official record. Such thinking advances new justification for substandard citizenship in places like St. Croix: to best prepare for climate change, we must absolve and subsidize the very industry that willingly led us into this crisis. Profits, not people, will save us in the end. Residents are having none of it. The disasters of toxicity and climate change may have very different temporal and spatial coordinates, but they share one liable author: the empire of oil. It is only by holding that empire accountable—by prosecuting the profiteers of destruction—that justice can be found and a society beyond oil begun. St. Croix is a climate crucible.

CLIMATE PRAXIS IN THE NOW In watching communities cope with acute climate-linked disasters, we have found one striking continuity: people don’t face up to climate change as a profoundly new crisis; they make sense of it by situating it within the challenges they already face—everyday struggles for economic survival, long histories of colonial dispossession. This may disappoint some in the climate advocacy community, as well as others in the worlds of social theory, who hope to find a straightforward low-carbon climate politics magically emerge from climate disasters’ wreckage— whether thanks to benign, technocratic elites or perfectly virtuous popular movements. In New York, a common theme in post-Sandy organizing was struggles in and around housing. Housing precarity was as existential a threat as climate extremes—and the two had just merged. In St. Croix, many residents are skeptical of the shiny promises of “climate resiliency” they know will only be funded through restarting the refinery and sanitizing a history of toxic injustice; from this perspective, climate change amplifies a longer tradition of liberal reformers giving political cover to old-fashioned exclusionary practices. After all, elites who knew the climate science had driven investment priorities in the name of climate resiliency that held no promise of delivering justice. But we have increasingly seen something else: marginalized communities finding ways, however rough and imprecise, and over the course of years—not weeks—to link ideas about climate change to long-standing struggles for rights to their lifeworld, improved social services, and greater political agency.

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The tension here does not arise from the question of whether climate change is bad or not—it’s increasingly viewed, by most people, as bad. Rather, we have watched groups struggle to pinpoint how precisely something as new and complex as climate politics might be braided into grievances that seem more simple, immediate, and visceral. In places like the U.S. Virgin Islands, the still-simmering edges of colonial disregard are seized upon as the frontline battle against foreclosed futures. Planetary crisis, in these sites, comes to matter as both the inevitable endpoint of colonial violence, the spark that might ignite a more radical accounting, and a vehicle to secure recognition and reparations from the state. Making general claims about how people react to climate change in the present and recent past has limits because the impacts of climate change, and discussion about it, are almost certain to grow. All the science points toward increasing weather extremes, with broader economic and social consequences. The best projections of climate change suggest that it will have an outsized impact on the world’s poor, deepening existing forms of inequality, racism, and borders (and perhaps clothing the durable injuries of colonial violence in new climatic justification). From that standpoint, it is understandable that many climate scientists and conventional environmentalists take the moral standpoint of the future to make their arguments. And it is understandable that from this perspective, violent hurricanes offer teachable moments—shards of the future in microcosm. This point recalls anthropologists Kim Fortun’s (2001) and Joseph Masco’s (2014, 138) insistence on the “future anterior” in ethnography, which draws attention to “a form of history made visible in negative outcomes.” By way of Canguilhem and Derrida, Kim Fortun insists that the future anterior is also a political sphere where historical narratives are contested to seize upon the present obligation to the future, where the normative order of the present is not the starting block of critical inquiry and political action but its effect. Fortun (2001, 361) writes, “The future anterior is where the future is worked out, now.” The future is not a disembodied and dislocated authority viewing us as if from afar; the future is a political field of contestation and creativity unfolding in the here and now. But in our view, critical theorists and engaged scholars might do something different: retain our scientific understanding of climate change’s dynamic of cause and effect, and of its implications for worsening weather conditions, but shift the moral authority from a modeled future to the contested, open-ended present. Climate praxis is already occurring in the present—only in more fragmented, tentative, and intersectional forms than is comfortable for conventional

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climate action advocates. Taking seriously how marginalized people draw climate change into their own struggles must be paired with theoretical strategies that draw analogies to other periods of mass disruption and seek to parse out, among all the climate reactions occurring now, which patterns seem more likely to last (and deepen) as extreme weather worsens. Climate does change everything—but in ways that only political struggle can determine. NOTES 1. This is not a novel sentiment. Such a notion was a popular slogan in the environmental crisis of the 1960s and 1970s (Bond 2018). As the UN secretary general put it in 1969: “It is apparent that if current trends continue, the future of life on Earth could be endangered.” This sentiment, and its planetary breadth, helped found the UN Environment Program. 2. Scholars of public opinion ask if today’s extreme weather events will offer “teachable moments” that will imprint the necessity of climate action through force of example alone (Chemnick 2012). Political scientists urge the clearer communication of attribution science in disasters’ wake (Stokes 2018). And yet—scholars of public opinion have found little evidence that extreme weather events transform people’s opinions on climate change (Bergquist and Warshaw 2019). 3. These quotations about Sandy, and those following, are reported in this chapter for the first time, from (anonymized) transcripts of research Cohen conducted with the Superstorm Research Lab (2013).

REFERENCES Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, ALIGN, Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, Community Voices Heard, Faith in New York, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Good Old Lower East Side, Red Hook Initiative, and New York Communities for Change. 2014. “Weathering the Storm: Rebuilding a More Resilient New York City Housing Authority Post-Sandy.” New York. /5a83696fb0786935f4bd17f5/t/5bf42a28032be48ae7ae5ac4/1542728312521/Weathering +the+Storm+Report.pdf. Archer, David. 2011. The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Auyero, Javier, and Debora Swistún. 2008. “The Social Production of Toxic Uncertainty.” American Sociological Review 73, no. 3: 357–79. Bergquist, Parrish, and Christopher Warshaw. 2019. “Does Global Warming Increase Public Concern About Climate Change?” Journal of Politics 81, no. 22: 686–91. Bond, David. 2017. “Oil in the Caribbean: Refineries, Mangroves, and the Negative Ecologies of Crude Oil.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 59, no. 3: 600–28. 10.1017 /S0010417517000184.

Toward a Theory of Climate Praxis 291  Bond, David. 2018. “Environment: Critical Reflections on the Concept.” Paper Number 64, Occasional Paper Series. Princeton, NJ: Institute for Advanced Study. /default/files/sss/papers/paper_64.pdf. Callison, Candis. 2014. How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Chemnick, Jean. 2012. “Advocates See Recent Extreme Weather as a ‘Teachable Moment.’ ” Environment and Energy Publishing, August 8. Cohen, Daniel Aldana. 2016. “Petro Gotham, People’s Gotham.” In Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, ed. Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Shapiro, 47–54. Berkeley: University of California Press. Cohen, Daniel Aldana. 2021. “New York City as ‘Fortress of Solitude’ After Hurricane Sandy: A Relational Sociology of Extreme Weather’s Relationship to Climate Politics.” Environmental Politics 30, no. 5: 687–707. Cohen, Daniel Aldana, and Max Liboiron. 2014. “New York’s Two Sandys.” Metropolitics, October 30. Edwards, Paul N. 2010. A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming. Cambridge: MIT Press. Estes, Nick. 2019. Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. New York: Verso. Fortun, Kim. 2001. Advocacy After Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Gould, Kenneth A., David N. Pellow, and Allan Schnaiberg. 2008. The Treadmill of Production: Injustice and Unsustainability in the Global Economy. Boulder, CO: Paradigm. Graham, Leigh, Wim Debucquoy, and Isabelle Anguelovski. 2016. “The Influence of Urban Development Dynamics on Community Resilience Practice in New York City After Superstorm Sandy: Experiences from the Lower East Side and the Rockaways.” Global Environmental Change 40 (September): 112–24. Greenberg, M. 2014. “The Disaster Inside the Disaster: Hurricane Sandy and Post-Crisis Redevelopment.” New Labor Forum 23, no. 1: 44–52. Hansen, James. 2012. “Game Over for the Climate.” New York Times, May 9, 2012. http://www Hiar, Corbin. 2019. “EPA: Trump Admin Provides ‘Customer Service’ to Troubled Refinery.” E and E News (November 21). Hulme, Mike. 2009. Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jameson, Fredric. 2003. “Future City.” New Left Review 21 (May/June): 65–79. Jamieson, Dale. 2014. Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed—and What It Means for Our Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Klein, Naomi. 2014. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster. Lepore, Jill. 2017. “The Atomic Origins of Climate Science.” New Yorker, January 22. Malm, Andreas. 2016. Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming. London: Verso. Masco, Joseph. 2014. The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

292 Affected Communities McNeill, J. R., and Peter Engelke. 2016. The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene Since 1945. Cambridge, MA: Belknap. Norgaard, Kari Marie. 2011. Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life. Cambridge, MA: MIT. Paprocki, Kasia. 2019. “All That Is Solid Melts into the Bay: Anticipatory Ruination and Climate Change Adaptation.” Antipode 51, no. 1: 295–315. Patel, Raj, and Jason W. Moore. 2017. A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. Berkeley: University of California Press. Plunz, Richard. 2016. A History of Housing in New York City. Rev. ed. New York: Columbia University Press. Rockström, Johan W. Steffen, and K. Noone. 2009. “A Safe Operating Space for Humanity.” Nature 461 (September 23): 472–75. Rockström, Johan, Owen Gaffney, Joeri Rogelj, Malte Meinshausen, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, and Hans Joachim. 2017. “A Roadmap for Rapid Decarbonization.” Science 355, no. 6331: 1269–71. Shellenberger, Michael, and Ted Nordhaus. 2007. Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. -Environmentalism-Politics-Possibility/dp/0618658254. Steffen, Will, Paul J. Crutzen, and John R. McNeill. 2007. “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?” Ambio 36, no. 8: 614–21. /0044-7447(2007)36[614:TAAHNO]2.0.CO;2. Stokes, Leah C. 2018. “Climate Change in My Backyard.” New York Times, January 11, 2018. Superstorm Research Lab. 2013. “A Tale of Two Sandys.” New York: Superstorm Research Lab. Swyngedouw, Erik. 2011. “Depoliticized Environments: The End of Nature, Climate Change and the Post-Political Condition.” Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 69 (July 2015): 253–74. Welzer, Howard. 2011. Climate Wars: How People Will Be Killed in the 21st Century. London: Polity.

14 The Discovery of Contamination Forever Chemicals and the Temporality of Critique DAV I D B O N D


top contaminating our homes.” A squat complex of brick apartments, the Saratoga Sites Public Housing Unit in Cohoes, New York, is home to some seventy families. The cluster of modest two-story buildings forms a tiny residential island in the middle of an industrial ocean. While a highway and natural gas compressor station buttress two sides of the complex, the real worry is what lies behind. A wall of pine trees might obscure the boundary, except the pines are dying. Through the spindly branches two smokestacks rise above the apartments, their dull roar reverberating between the brick apartments. When I joined residents’ protests against the Norlite Hazardous Waste Incinerator on a spring morning in 2020, clouds of white exhaust from the incinerator hung over the place like a fog. Clotheslines, plastic toys, and flowering trees stood out brightly against the overcast sky. The week before, elevated levels of toxins were found in the soil and creek around the apartments. On that spring day, local elected officials organized a press conference at the housing complex to discuss the findings. Residents gathered in their stoops, talking with reporters making the rounds. “We’ve never had a white Christmas here. You have to dig a few inches to ever find white snow.” “You can clean your windows every day. It doesn’t matter, the next day there will be a film on the glass.” “The paint on our cars dissolved and fell off.” “On wet days, rainbow colors bubble up from the ground.” “It felt like I was being tear-gassed in my own apartment. I couldn’t breathe.” Soon a few black SUVs pulled up, and the reporters peeled away from the residents to get a quote from the politicians. As rain began to fall, aides to the mayor directed the press to the communal laundromat, where tripods and cameras crowded the room between the coin-operated washer/dryer

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machines. Two state representatives and the mayor sat at a folding table set up in front of the emergency exit, each of them rising to read prepared remarks: they were shocked at the recent disclosures that the incinerator may be contaminating the air and water in this neighborhood, and they were committed to passing sensible regulations to limit further pollution. A few residents stood in the rain outside, listening through the open door. “It’s about damned time,” one said. As communities like Cohoes mobilize to confront contamination and minimize its reach, rising currents of social theory have turned to contamination as a new observatory on the contemporary condition. These new theories of contamination suggest that there’s an emergent truth in contemporary accounts of exposed life, one better attuned to the shifting coordinates of life in a new epoch marked by material upheaval. At scales as intimate as bodily systems and as sweeping as the planet itself, contamination carries the sense that boundaries may no longer hold, that purity is no longer an option, and that the future is as open-ended as our lives have become. Elizabeth Roberts (2017) takes up “exposure” as a keyword of the Anthropocene precisely for how it inhabits the tensions between the located experience of contamination and its universal scope. Zoë Wool (2017) reflects how “the relativity of toxicity” grounds new political possibilities between the “uneven landscape” and “equal opportunity menace” of pollution. Other scholars now turn to the sheer ubiquity of toxicity today as a final victory over the structural binaries and purified epistemologies still anchoring our world to the purified fantasies of modernity. Reveling in how “toxicity releases life from an absolute need to protect it,” Mel Chen (2011, 279) asks if we might recenter our research, ethics, and politics on “the queer productivity of toxicity and toxins” and seize upon the world to come. Anna Tsing (2015, 27) lauds “contamination as collaboration” and describes what worlds we might become in embracing that fact. In 2017, a special issue of Cultural Anthropology (Shapiro and Kirksey 2017) offered a programmatic call for “chemo-ethnography” that might bracket the dangers of toxicity to better embrace the mutant forms of life emerging from chemical entanglements. These theories of contamination draw attention to what we’ve already become but struggle to fully realize: we are contaminated. As a prophetic theory and an expanding experience, the materiality of contamination captures the mood of our fragile present and its impending breaking points. Yet between critical theories of contamination and engaged protest of it, a continental divide is taking shape. Prominent scholars rally around contamination as a physical storm that can blast apart modern epistemologies and the imperial modes of occupation they authorize without the hard work of political

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revolution. Downstream of petrochemical plants, military bases, saturated farms, open-pit mining, nuclear test sites, and hazardous waste incinerators, a very different critique is taking shape, one intent on holding back the spread of contamination and seeking amends for the harms already under way. Both theory and protest agree that material contamination is an unprecedented crisis to the present order, demonstrating the insufficiency of the status quo and demanding that something must change. But the critique that emerges from this crisis of contamination moves in two very different directions. With critique, we might say, the greater the theoretical reach of contamination the less ethnographic empathy it seems to hold.

GETTING INVOLVED Revolving around the properties of the emerging toxin PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), this chapter reflects on the disjunctures between the prominence of contamination within anthropological theories of our present crisis and my own advocacy work with communities impacted by contamination. My ethnographic reflections follow four years of collaborating with residents to advance justice in the wake of extensive toxic pollution. In the 1970s, my adopted hometown of Bennington, Vermont, rebranded itself “Teflon Town” as it became home to a number of niche plastics plants that occupied the old mills and breathed new economic hope into the region. As is now understood, the petrochemical PFOA was emitted for half a century from these factories in Hoosick Falls and Petersburg, New York, and North Bennington, Vermont. While corporate owners suspected the health impact of PFOA for decades and learned of the elevated levels of PFOA in the groundwater years ago, they kept these alarming facts to themselves. Today, it is estimated that three modest plastics plants contaminated roughly 250 square miles of soil and groundwater (including my own home and the college campus where I teach) in a rural area where many still depend on agriculture and get their drinking water from wells. In response to the outrage of residents upon learning of this contamination, I joined with colleagues in chemistry (Janet Foley) and geology (Tim Schroeder) to figure out what a college can do—indeed, what a college should do—in a situation of extensive regional contamination, real public health concerns, confused directions from state agencies, and well-heeled corporate subterfuge. With the support of a National Science Foundation (NSF) RAPID Response Grant, we organized a handful of activities that put the analytic resources of the college to work responding to community concerns.

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A few weeks after the discovery of PFOA, I helped organize a new class at Bennington College on the toxicological profile, environmental pathways, and emerging regulations of PFOA. This class, free and open to the public, became a place where the core commitments of the university—teaching—were opened to a public desperate for reliable information on an unfolding environmental disaster. Co-taught by a chemist, a geologist, and myself, an anthropologist, this class was attended by state legislators, teachers from nearby high schools, journalists, nurses, concerned residents, and a few Bennington College students. Alongside this class, I helped organize research teams of faculty and students that took up residents’ concerns as research projects to produce independent data for the community, from PFOA levels in maple sap to suspicions of illegal waste pits. State agencies are often bound by strict protocols amidst a problem like this, and can only produce facts that are narrowly useful for the investigation and are uniformly asked and answered. We learned that collaborations between anthropology and environmental scientists can take residents’ spoken concerns more seriously and can provide data calibrated not to the prefabricated agendas of the corporation or the state but to the lived dimensions of resident concern (Bond, Foley, and Schroeder 2018). More broadly, we were concerned that the tactics of the state, while potentially effective at furthering the public interest in the long run, worked to diminish and discount the kind of situated curiosity that breathes life into informed citizenship. When the New York State Department of Health released a shoddy cancer survey that declared there were no cancers associated with PFOA in Hoosick Falls—this despite the fact that a number of people living in Hoosick Falls had been diagnosed with exactly those cancers—I collaborated with a local doctor, environmental engineer, and former EPA regional director to conduct our own health survey that could give the community’s knowledge of its own health more prominence. Going door to door every weekend as the brisk fall turned into a snowy winter, our questionnaire identified and confirmed a handful of cancers in the community associated with PFOA, leading the state to reconsider medical monitoring as part of the settlement it is negotiating with the plastics factory (Bond 2018). I also have worked to confront egregious corporate antics. Saint-Gobain and others in the plastics industry have continually attempted to muddy the waters around the scientific facts of PFOA contamination in the region. These efforts include purchasing the domain names and to showcase corporate responsibility to the community while simultaneously filing official reports with the state blaming residents themselves for

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PFOA contamination. At one point, Saint-Gobain threatened to pull funding for water filtration systems if local leaders did not accept its highly truncated (but professionally modeled) assessment of the limits of PFOA. Pulling these corrupt efforts into the light of day and showcasing the dubious logic its claims often rested upon became another aspect of this project (Bond and Rose 2018). Once these campaigns of obfuscation and lawyerly delay were brought into public light, the liable companies often came back to the negotiating table newly willing to take responsibility and put the whole thing behind them. More recently, many states and industries have begun rushing to rid themselves of stockpiles of PFOA as its designation as a hazardous waste becomes inevitable. Between 2017 and 2019, millions of pounds of PFOA have been burned at a handful of incinerators in poor communities around the United States despite there being zero scientific evidence that incineration destroys these toxins (and good reason to think it does not). As described in the opening of this chapter, I have begun work with local advocates and residents of a public housing complex in the shadow of a hazardous waste incinerator in Cohoes, New York, that has been burning PFOA. In the soil and wetlands and neighborhoods around the incinerator, we found elevated levels of PFOA. These findings, the first in the nation, suggested that incineration is not solving the PFOA problem so much as redistributing it into poor and working-class neighborhoods (Bond, Foley, and Schroeder 2020). Our report helped city and state legislators pass bills banning the incineration of PFOA in New York. In each of these efforts, I have tried to leverage ethnographic insights on PFOA contamination into real change, whether in media interviews, while testifying at state hearings, or in a handful of op-eds in local and regional papers. As I’ve turned from four years of advocacy on this issue to write about it for more scholarly audiences, I’ve been struck by how prominent toxicity is becoming in certain currents of anthropological theory and how little illumination those theories seemed to give about the lived contamination I witnessed and continue to participate in. Juxtaposing theory and the ethnography of contamination, this chapter reflects on this disjuncture.

UNDERSTANDING PFOA A picturesque place, Hoosick Falls is nestled in a wide bend of the Hoosic River where mountain waters tumble over one last rocky ledge before turning across the flat farmland that slopes toward the Hudson. The Hoosick Falls Little League Complex marks the spot where the river swings out and then begins

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its embracing turn around the town. Just behind left field stands Supply Well No. 7, a tree-like steel tube rising a dozen feet from the ground and boxed in with chain link. With only a low hum indicating its heft, the well is capable of pumping nearly a million gallons of drinking water a day from the aquifer below and serves roughly 4,500 residents. I first visited the site in 2015 after residents reached out to ask if I might investigate an addendum to their water bill that noted that the chemical PFOA was detected in their drinking water but not to worry. On that crisp December day, the hum of the well mixed with the dull rumble of the Saint-Gobain High Performance Plastics Plant, its roofline rising over the trees some 400 yards away. A few days later, Brendan Lyons of the Albany Times Union reported that Saint-Gobain employees routinely dumped PFOA in the forest separating the factory from the ballfield and that the plant was aware of an extensive plume of PFOA in the groundwater beneath its plant for years but said nothing. But standing by the well on that December day, it was hard to tell what exactly was out of place, where exactly the disaster was. A few stops later, we pulled up to the Tops grocery store, where pallets of bottled water had been unloaded, filling the middle of the frozen aisle with boxes of one-gallon water jugs stacked four high. “There just always seemed to be a lot of cancers in this town,” the town doctor in Hoosick Falls told me. It was a widespread sentiment, yet for years it didn’t gather into outrage. That changed with Michael Hickey. When his father passed away from kidney cancer in 2014, Michael Hickey was devastated. A resident of Hoosick Falls his whole life, Michael realized that he had watched cancer take down far too many of his classmates, often in their twenties and thirties. Although his father never smoked or drank, he worked in the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics factory right up until his diagnosis. In his grief late one night in 2014, Michael googled “Plastics” and “Cancer” and started reading. He quickly narrowed in on PFOA and started compiling a number of articles (many just published that year by the EPA) that documented growing concerns that linked PFOA-laden drinking water to a number of cancers and other health impacts. In Hoosick Falls, the Saint-Gobain plant sits about 300 meters from the well that supplies the town’s drinking water. “I started staying up a couple of nights a week for three months reading up on it,” he explained. Alarmed at what he was learning but unsure of its validity, he took his pile of articles and notes to his doctor and asked him to take a look. The doctor thought Michael might be on to something. Encouraged, Michael took his findings to the village board in early 2014 and suggested the village test its public water for PFOA. “I thought it’d be a no brainer,” Michael said.

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Instead it took two years of tireless work to bring the question into public light. It took the rogue sampling of the town’s drinking water to confirm Hickey’s suspicions: PFOA was in alarming levels in the town’s drinking water. Then it took an indomitable will and a growing coalition of outrage to stand against the mayor, the country health department, and finally the New York State Department of Health, all of whom told the residents there was nothing to worry about. At one public meeting in 2015, two citizens groups—one, a collection of furious mothers and the other a group of doctors, lawyers, and bankers from the town—manned a table in the back of the auditorium. There they handed out an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fact sheet that, in highly technical language, summarized growing concerns over the “toxicity, mobility, and bioaccumulation potential of PFOA” at the levels found in the town’s drinking water. At the front of the room, New York State Department of Health officials gave a presentation that explained that while PFOA had been detected in the public water of Hoosick Falls, “health effects are not expected to occur from the normal use of the water.” A mother interrupted, “We all know we’ve got a problem. Our aquifer is poisoned. What are you going to do about it?” In between statements, the mayor told everyone within earshot that drinking the water was “a personal choice,” and while he understood why some people were choosing not to drink the water, he would continue to drink it.

TOTAL CONTAMINATION PFOA was first synthetically engineered in the 1940s almost by accident. After some experimentation, it became clear that PFOA repelled both water and grease, a unique property. Soon PFOA became the premier surfactant in the manufacture of high-performance plastics like Teflon—that is, PFOA helped spread plastics very thinly and evenly over all varieties of surfaces. And after application, PFOA was baked off or washed away with little thought to what happened next. Almost from the time they started producing PFOA in the 1950s, manufacturers had serious concerns about the toxicity of PFOA. As early as 1961, DuPont’s head of toxicology said PFOA was likely toxic and should “be handled with extreme care.” Over the next decade numerous experiments with animals demonstrated the risks of PFOA (when the animals didn’t all die from the exposure). As 3M summarized the results: “Certainly more toxic than anticipated.” The implications were clear, and both DuPont and 3M started monitoring the health of their workers. Both companies quickly learned that

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just about any worker that interacted with PFOA, whether in the production line or in the laboratory, had accumulated and retained PFOA in his or her blood. As the companies sought out an unexposed population to compare with the health of their workers, they encountered a problem: all Americans had detectable amounts of PFOA in their blood in 1976, suggesting universal exposure after only twenty-five years of commercial use. By that time, 3M and DuPont also linked exposure to PFOA to a number of ailments, diseases, and cancers in their workers. Corporate leadership decided to bury both disconcerting facts as production ramped up. In the late 1990s, a lawyer representing a farmer downstream of a DuPont landfill came across the corporate archive of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) toxicity in a discovery proceeding (PFOA is a long-chain version of these substances). Aghast at the extent of the deception and the public danger it posed, he summarized what the company knew and shared his concerns with federal agencies in 2001 (Bilott 2019; Lerner 2015; Blake 2015). Five years later, the major manufactures of PFAS chemicals had paid some of the largest fines in the history of environmental enforcement and agreed to phase out all use of the chemical. The problem, however, was far from over. As environmental protection agencies and municipal water agencies learned how to analysis water for PFAS chemicals, they realized that hundreds of communities in the United States have dangerous levels of these toxins in their drinking water. As DuPont and 3M knew for years, PFOA is extraordinarily mobile once it’s released into the environment and quickly bioaccumulates. Today, PFOA is found in just about every form of cellular life on earth. With PFOA, one toxicologist told me, “we all have body burdens now.” These physical properties of PFOA align with current theories of contamination, which take toxicity up as a generalized force of the contemporary that pulses through borders and bodies irreverent about the categorical distinctions that underlie modernist projects of rule. “Everyone carries a history of contamination; purity is not an option,” writes Anna Tsing (2015). Whether in cyborgs or hybrids, contemporary theory in anthropology has come to celebrate bodily transgressions and mutant forms. Experimenting with hybrids and mutants might undo the order of the day less by frontal assault than by showing how impoverished the walls were to begin with. Critical theory, argued Donna Haraway in “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1985, 66), should take “pleasure in the confusion of boundaries.” Experimenting with heretical mixtures might undo the order of the day less by frontal assault than by showing how empirically impoverished that order was to begin with (Latour 1993). This charge proliferates today as a

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growing number of anthropologists find renewed theoretical optimism in the chemical capacity of contamination to scramble modernist strictures and inject experimental hybrids into our now unprecedented future. “Toxic environments are animating transgressions,” writes Eben Kirksey (2017) on rusty chemical weapons authoring new multispecies assemblages in Panama, and ethnographers should learn to “experience the dangerous pleasures of intoxication.” Impinged upon by rising seas and sweeping toxicity, Elizabeth Povinelli (2017, 509) imagines “our bodies are stew pots cooking up a new form of posthuman politics.” Contamination troubles order and offers a critical starting point for inquiries intent on denaturalizing binaries and boundaries of all kinds. Yet while theories of contamination celebrate these very properties of PFOA as evidence of the world to come, communities impacted by PFOA work instead to develop strategies to contain these properties and seek justice for harms already under way. In reflecting on these tensions, I’ve often wondered: How might ethnography make PFOA stick within the quite reasonable demands of impacted communities while keeping an eye on all that doesn’t yet fit within our present scales of justice?

THE HOME FRONT Keith built his modest house on the ridge above the plastics plant. A skilled carpenter, he sometimes spoke of his home as a kind of college degree, an investment in his future. After dropping out of high school and working in construction for years, it was the first real project he took on himself, and the skills he honed proved themselves as he became a noted home builder in the area. In the past few years, his home has been cast in a different light. PFOA from the Saint-Gobain plant infiltrated the groundwater in North Bennington, Vermont, and in 2016 many residents discovered high levels of toxins like PFOA in their residential wells. Keith’s well had the highest levels of PFOA in the whole state of Vermont: 2,600 parts per trillion (ppt). It was a real puzzle, though, as the houses all around him had barely detectable levels of PFOA. Every time I’d come for a sample, he’d follow me to the basement to chat. “The girls still won’t drink the water,” he told me one afternoon. “I tried to explain it to them, but they just won’t do it. Won’t even use the water to brush their teeth. They are still afraid of it.” He didn’t find their fear silly, he said; he understood it. But he wasn’t sure how to square it with the filtration system Saint-Gobain had installed in his house. So he keeps buying them bottled water, on his own dime.

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When I first met Emily, she had a hand-painted sign proclaiming “Cloud Nine” overlooking her driveway. A few weeks later, the sign was leaned up against the shed. A few months later it was replaced with a “For Sale” sign. “It’s no longer my house,” Emily said. “It’s theirs.” She pointed at Taconic Plastics, just down the road. “Once they poisoned my water, they took away my home.” Emily worked three jobs until she could pull her children out of a decrepit two-room trailer and into her dream house: as she described it, “a 3 bedroom, 2.8 acres, American Dream. Did it before I was thirty, and while I was single. I loved it.” In 2016, Emily was informed that PFOA had been detected in her well at levels over thirty times the federal health guidance level. She was devastated. State officials asked her to wait patiently while they worked something out with the company. She didn’t, and as she tried to bring attention to the issue, friends rebuffed her. The former town supervisor cornered her: “Do you really want to cost 200 people their jobs over this?” She prevailed, and against tremendous headwinds forced the issue into the light of day, much to the embarrassment of company leaders and local officials who had been sitting the problem for decades without telling anyone. It’s a story she’s recounted many times for television crews and legislative hearings in the past two years, and when we arrived with students to sample her water she’d always recount it. One morning, she flashed a grin after telling her story. She said she had a surprise to share: “I’m pregnant.” As I offered my hesitant congratulations, she interrupted me: “Does anyone need any breast milk? Cause I don’t. My blood levels are too high. I’m not going to pass these chemicals on to my baby.” Each of these towns had lived with plastics manufacturing for decades and had lived with the contamination of their lives for just as long. Long evidenced by a blue-tinged fog on winter mornings, nose bleeds, the acrid smell of plastic burning in the summer, headaches, tap water that foams as if already soapy, and cancers among family and friends, PFOA contamination was not exactly a revelation to these communities, and memories of the past were not colored with ideas of purity. In 2016, the work of Michael Hickey and other residents suddenly pricked their “everyday praxis of not noticing” and drew the long-standing industrial milieu into the density of a moral event (Ahmann 2018, 145), suddenly disavowed the cognitive and bureaucratic investments in “toxic uncertainty” (Auyero and Swistun 2009), and demanded answers to questions that had long hung in the air. For many residents, the shape of injustice gathered into felt form around the two remaining social safety nets in rural America: family and home. In these working-class communities, family and home are talked about more in terms of reciprocity than gain: folks pour their labor into their families and

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homes with some hope they will eventually return the favor with care, meaning, and stability in regions otherwise disregarded. PFOA smuggled profound harm into the two vestiges of well-being left in these downwardly mobile communities. And that’s where long-tolerated risk snapped into welled-up fury over PFOA contamination. Michael Hickey later reflected, “I’m not a doctor or a lawyer or even an environmentalist. But I knew something wasn’t right. I started as a heart-broken son and quickly turned into a scared father.” Residents organized as mothers and fathers. They protested as homeowners. At public meetings, residents explained the impact in terms of children now carrying a lifetime of medical uncertainty and their meager life savings wiped out in collapsing real estate prices. These two ledgers of loss became the basis of how residents drew long-standing exposures into moral outrage and demands for justice.

“FOREVER CHEMICALS” Throughout 2016, PFOA was detected in a handful of public drinking water systems and in thousands of private residential wells around the plastics factories that dot this region of New York and Vermont. At each new plastics plant, the strategy was the same: set up a perimeter at a safe distance from the plant and test every residential well and farm within that zone to map the contamination plume. After enlarging perimeters time and time again, state officials in Vermont and New York eventually reached the same conclusion: there was no workable perimeter. As one state official told me, “This shit is everywhere.” From the farmlands surrounding the plants to isolated valleys in the Adirondacks and Green Mountains, just about everywhere they sampled they found PFOA. About a year ago, the strategy changed: instead of setting up a perimeter, the state would establish “a natural background level” for PFOA. There was just too much PFOA to discern an outer edge. Chemically stable on the order of centuries—a lifespan, I was told, that is based not on empirical data but on the fact that most existing models for contaminant breakdown don’t figure timescales beyond a century—PFOA is, as one regulator put it, “redefining the concept of environmental persistence.” “This stuff exists on geological timescales,” another environmental engineer quipped. Environmental advocates have taken to calling PFOA a “forever chemical.” Although its production and industrial use were confined to plastics manufacturing hubs in the United States, Europe, and now China, the spread of PFOA is now planetary. Today, PFOA is found nearly everywhere we’ve thought to look

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for it: in city parks, in mountain valleys, in the middle of the ocean, in snowfall, in deep aquifers, and in every major population of humans on earth. Moreover, exposure to trace amounts of PFOA in air or water or food has been strongly linked to a host of cancers, developmental disorders, immune dysfunction, and infertility. These disconcerting properties of PFOA have fundamentally altered how state agencies, environmental scientists, and lawyers understand contamination. In the past few years, state investigations into PFOA contamination have commenced in nearly every state (and around the world), and there are hundreds of class-action lawsuits from impacted communities. Today, corporate defense attorneys for the plastics industry are hard at work nominating PFOA to the welcoming committee of a future of total contamination. It’s a future they cast as inevitable, surprisingly democratic, and without any liable author. “Toxicity is now a planetary force,” writes Joseph Masco (2015, 314). Michelle Murphy (2008) outlines the “chemical regimes of living” where the unbound pathways of exhaust, pesticides, and synthetic hormones alter the molecular composition of life worldwide. Describing the “banality of toxicity” today, Donna Goldstein and Kira Hall (2015, 650) suggest that contamination has become a ubiquitous chemical threat and an interpretive device in the contemporary world. From the planetary fallout of nuclear weapons to the atmospheric imprint of automobile tailpipes to explosive adjectives, contamination has gone global and should be acknowledged as such (and perhaps might replace labor as an empirical basis of planetary politics).1 Yet so many iterations of contamination remain painfully located. In the United States, this includes the clustering of waste sites and petrochemical facilities in communities of color (UCC 1987; Bullard 1993; Checker 2005), Indigenous homelands recast as “sacrifice zones” in thermonuclear statecraft (Lerner 2010; Voyles 2015), the rural poor dispossessed of subsistence landscapes to ease the American addiction to fossil fuels (Scott 2010; Shapiro 2015; Wylie 2018), marginal workers in factories and in fields shorn of existing protections in gear and legal recompense as more and more caustic chemicals join the workforce (Holmes 2013; Horton 2016), and toxic facilities now dangled out to downwardly mobile neighborhoods as their last economic lifeline. All find resonance in “environmental inequalities” (Hurley 1995) or “environmental racism” (Checker 2005), and the conviction that toxins conspire within the historical geographies of inequality. Yet many prominent theoretical voices in anthropology today are turning to contamination as an ontological rupture with the epistemic habits that undergird inequality, as a kind of revolutionary release from the categorical reason that got us in this mess. Here, contamination offers an emergent ground to theorize

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our planetary predicament without resorting to its founding dualisms. Toxicity gestures towards heretical collaborations, politics without purity, a horizon of abnormal equality, and an evocative opening to what we’ve already become. Eben Kirksey (2017, 2) calls for “toxic methods” in anthropology to depart from grief over contamination and become more attentive to the world-making capacities of chemically “altered abilities and subjectivities” in contaminated worlds. For these scholars, toxicity is an emergent planetary fact, and the most urgent critique is one of fully recognizing that reality and the revolution it implies. Today the petrochemical industry and fossil fuel companies are also investing heavily in the fact of planetary contamination as the starting point of the contemporary. Turning away from the failures of the past, the generative look into planetary futures can tune out more exacting geographies of liability. Toxicity is a planetary issue. But it is one that is often profited and fielded, disavowed and inhabited in grossly unequal ways: contamination is “a condition that is shared, but unevenly so, and which divides us as much as binds us” (Murphy 2017, 497). How can anthropology acknowledge unbridled planetary contamination while working to hold those who have profited from toxicity accountable? How might ethnography become better attuned to the historical inequities and planetary futures that haunt questions of toxicity today, in full awareness of the political stakes at work in these scales of reckoning? Facing an angry high school auditorium in Hoosick Falls in January 2016 that was asking him why PFOA was not classified as a hazardous waste, a senior EPA official responded, “You and I know it is. But it hasn’t gotten that classification yet. The law has not yet caught up to the science.” In more unguarded moments, a few leading scientists and officials working on the issue have offered a slightly different sentiment. Rather than law catching up with science, they spoke of how the materiality of the problem hovers at the edge of what is reliably knowable, with a humble awareness of just how much remains just out of view. “There are plumes we are just figuring out how to see,” one top EPA scientist told me, “but there are so many plumes we don’t yet know how to see.” Another leading environmental engineer told me, “With PFOA, we don’t yet know if our actual exposure is increasing or not. What is happening is our knowledge of exposure to PFOA is increasing.” It was sometimes hard, he said, to tell the difference. As the unsteady relation between our knowledge of toxicity and its material effects unfolds, contamination is becoming a keyword of our contemporary condition. Yet this crisis of contamination is coming to mean very different things for different people. In the wake of toxic discoveries, residents of impacted communities like Hoosick Falls and Bennington have joined together to fight back

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against toxic pollution, to minimize their exposure to toxins in the ground and water, and to seek redress for the damages already done. The goal is clear: prosecute those who profited from contamination, protect the health of those still living amid toxicity, and seek justice by pulling a history of gross negligence into a public and legal accounting. Many scholars have taken a different approach, finding in contamination a new opening to understand and surpass the terminal condition of the present without falling back upon its founding dualisms. So many of these scholars have come to see toxins not only as acceptable but also as an almost messianic arrival of our own multiplicity, a revolution against the structural binaries of the modern world without the bother of historical struggle, and as something to be encouraged. In this, scholars readily concede the social fact of total contamination, so that they can then get to work envisioning what forms of life might flourish within that fallen world. While perhaps philosophically stimulating, such a move begins with the concession that the present is lost. These divergences between the experience of contamination and theories of contamination herald a split in the temporal orientation of critique. As residents fight contamination in the present tense, many prominent intellectual voices find themselves analytically aligning themselves with contamination to welcome what comes next.

FIGHTING BACK Looking back, for many PFOA was always there. It meant summer evenings where a light blue fog drifted across the golf course and members of the country club quickly moved indoors to finish their meals. It meant crisp winter mornings when farmers woke to find their fields painted in blueish hue. There were the recurrent migraines and bloody noses among those living in the new development on the ridge just above the plant. “Some days, I couldn’t even go outside,” more than one resident told me. Workers called it the “Teflon Flu,” an onset of aches and pains after inhaling too deeply while loading the mixers or forgetting to change clothes after getting it on you. Sometimes, of course, you just came down with it for no good reason, other than you worked at the plant. An electrician told me he dreaded getting contract work in the plant: the pay was great, but something stuck with you when you left, something you couldn’t shake for days. The high school principal told me how the company used to donate industrial barrels for apple bobbing at the school’s annual Halloween party. The faint marking of “PFOA” was still visible on the barrels. A mother spoke of the nightmares

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that wracked her sleep on nights when she could smell the plant emissions. “The ceiling was alive, and it was dripping down and dissolving everything. I could smell it.” “In the summer,” another resident explained, “you had to remember to close your windows in the evenings. That’s when they fired up the stacks.” The nights, I heard again and again, smelled of burning plastic. Afterwards—after everyone knew—people asked a disconcerting question: What hadn’t we done? The everyday avoidance of certain smells, of certain confrontations, or certain explanations was recast as outrage and complicity, all at once. “We always just had a lot of cancers,” one doctor told me, himself recently diagnosed with cancer. “No one really thought about it all that much”—until they did, and the resulting fight started to change everything. From the beginning, state agencies in New York and Vermont promised to “make everyone whole again.” It’s a familiar refrain from officials, one that works to set a retrospective baseline before pollution as the technical goal of remediation. For many residents, their longer familiarity with contamination, their ledgers of loss, and the chemical properties of PFOA pointed them in a different direction. Many recognized that there’s no going back. Instead, residents organized themselves around advocacy for clean drinking water (with the recognition that there are no perfect options) and for help with medical bills for ailments linked to exposure to PFOA (with the recognition that they will carry a lifetime of risks). Residents’ pursuit of practical justice also reoriented their understanding of their place in the world. Over the past three years, the largely white, working-class communities of Hoosick Falls and Bennington have hosted mothers from Flint, Michigan, sent care packages to the water protectors at Standing Rock, collaborated with high schoolers from east Los Angeles working on drinking water issues, published op-eds in communities around the United States that were discovering PFOA in their water, and reached out to communities around similar plastics plants in India and China. Their confrontation with PFOA has keyed them in to the wider struggles against contamination and demands for justice today. NOTE 1. If class has long provided a more radical basis for universal politics, today contamination might offer a new opening for planetary humanism. As the editors of New Left Review presciently commented on the thermonuclear brinkmanship at the height of the Cold War, planetary destruction “poses the question of a common humanity before the advent of the classless society that socialist thought has always insisted could alone realize it” (1982, viii).

308 Affected Communities REFERENCES Ahmann, Chloe. 2018. “ ‘It’s Exhausting to Create an Event Out of Nothing’: Slow Violence and the Manipulation of Time.” Cultural Anthropology 33, no. 1: 142–71. Auyero, Javier, and Debora Alejandra Swistun. 2009. Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bilott, Rob. 2019. Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle Against DuPont. New York: Atria. Blake, Mariah. 2015. “Welcome to Beautiful Parkersburg, West Virginia.” Huntington Post Highline (website), August 27. -parkersburg/. Bond, David. 2018. “Commentary: PFOA Victims Deserve Medical Monitoring, Health Care.” Editorial, Albany Times Union, August 21. Bond, David, Janet Foley, and Tim Schroeder. 2018. “New Research Suggests PFOA Contamination Far More Extensive Than Originally Thought.” Bennington Banner, August 2, A6. Bond, David, Janet Foley, and Tim Schroeder. 2020. “Ban All Incineration of PFAS in New York.” Editorial, Albany Times Union, May 31, D2. Bond, David, and Jorja Rose. 2018. “Saint-Gobain’s Claims Don’t Hold Water.” Vermont Digger, May 20. Bullard, Robert. 1993. “Race and Environmental Justice in the United States.” Yale Journal of International Law 18, no. 1: 319–35. Checker, Melissa. 2005. Polluted Promises: Environmental Racism and the Search for Justice in a Southern Town. New York: New York University Press. Chen, Mel. 2011. “Toxic Animacies, Inanimate Affections.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 17, nos. 2–3: 265–86. Goldstein, Donna, and Kira Hall. 2015. “Mass Hysteria in Le Roy, New York: How Brain Experts Materialized Truth and Outscienced Environmental Inquiry,” American Ethnologist 41, no. 4: 640–57. Haraway, Donna. 1985. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.” Socialist Review 80 (April): 64–107. Holmes, Seth. 2013. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. Berkeley: University of California Press. Horton, Sarah. 2016. They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality Among U.S. Farmworkers. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hurley, Andrew. 1995. Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945–1980. Durham: University of North Carolina Press. Kirksey, Eben. 2017. “Caring as Chemo-Ethnographic Method.” Member Voices, Fieldsights, November 20. Latour, Bruno. 1993. We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lerner, Sharon. 2015. “The Teflon Toxin.” The Intercept (website), August. https://theintercept .com/series/the-teflon-toxin/. Lerner, Steve. 2010. Sacrifice Zones. Cambridge, MA: MIT. Masco, Joseph. 2015. “The Age of Fallout.” History of the Present 5, no. 2: 137–68. /10.5406/historypresent.5.2.0137.

The Discovery of Contamination 309  Murphy, Michelle. 2008. “Chemical Regimes of Living.” Environmental History 13, no. 4: 695–703. Murphy, Michelle. 2017. “Alterlife and Decolonial Chemical Relations.” Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 4: 494–503. Povinelli, Elizabeth. 2017. “Fires, Fogs, Winds.” Journal of Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 4: 504–13. Roberts, Elizabeth. 2017. “What Gets Inside: Violent Entanglements and Toxic Boundaries in Mexico City.” Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 4: 592–619. Scott, Rebecca. 2010. Removing Mountains: Extracting Nature and Identity in the Appalachian Coal Fields. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Shapiro, Nicholas. 2015. “Attuning to the Chemosphere: Domestic Formaldehyde, Bodily Reasoning, and the Chemical Sublime.” Cultural Anthropology 30, no. 3: 368–93. /ca30.3.02. Shapiro, Nicholas, and Eben Kirksey. 2017. “Chemo-Ethnography: An Introduction.” Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 4: 481–93. Tsing, Anna. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. United Church of Christ (UCC). 1987. “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.” New York: Commission for Racial Justice, United Church of Christ. Voyles, Tracy. 2015. Wastelanding: Legacies of Uranium Mining in Navajo Country. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Wool, Zoë. 2017. “The Relativity of Toxicity.” Anthrodendum (website), December 8. https:// Wylie, Sara. 2018. Fractivism: Corporate Bodies and Chemical Bonds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

15 Democracy Without Demos The Disappearance of the Working Class and the Rise of Abstention in French Political Life ANNE-CLAIRE DEFOSSEZ


he crisis of democracy” has become a refrain repeated after every election in France for the past twenty years. This leitmotiv essentially refers to the rise of abstention rates, as the elections remain the keystone of representative democracies. A certain degree of abstention has always existed; since the end of the 1990s, however, while French political life has been marked by a huge increase in every type of election, the number of abstainers even exceeds that of voters in recent national polls. Furthermore, abstention has become more prevalent among deprived social groups, while the wealthiest have a higher turnout. A second, parallel phenomenon, less visible and less commented on, poses just as much a challenge for representative democracy: the quasi disappearance of the working class from all political bodies. Neither the National Assembly elected in June 2017 nor the Senate installed in September 2020 includes a single blue-collar worker. Admittedly, lower-class political underrepresentation is not a new phenomenon: in the competition for political positions and in the building of political careers, lower socioprofessional groups have always been disadvantaged, but the trend had never gone so far as to render them entirely invisible. Blue-collar workers represented nearly 20 percent of the members of Congress elected in the 1946 legislative election won by the French Communist Party, which had gained its legitimacy for its role in the Résistance during World War II and had presented the largest number of workers as candidates. But since then their number has regularly dropped, and their presence in the national representation has rarely exceeded 5 percent. From the 1980s on, blue-collar workers even progressively disappear from all elected bodies.

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These two phenomena—high abstention rates, especially within the working class, and the absence of workers in political institutions—raise the question of the nature and quality of political representation in modern democracies. In the extensive literature on political representation, the distinction between descriptive and substantive representation is one of the most discussed questions, following the seminal work of Hanna Pitkin (1967). Indeed, according to her, representation can be understood as a similarity between the representative and the represented or as a coherence between the activity of the representative and the expectations of the represented. But this distinction is not the only one, and many scholars insist in more recent works on the extension of political representation beyond elections (Saward 2010; Urbinati and Warren 2008; Sintomer 2013). Yet, although elective representation also takes other forms, such as mobilizations demanding direct representation and modes of decision that contest the legitimacy of governments and parliamentarians to represent the people and defend their interests,1 it remains central in democracies today, insomuch as governments and representatives concentrate the power to make decisions affecting citizens’ everyday life. In this chapter, I question representative democracy as it is understood today in France. As abstention grows considerably, elected politicians increasingly do not represent their constituency and resemble less and less its sociodemographic composition. It is reasonable to assume that the two phenomena just mentioned are in some way related. The first part of this chapter analyzes electoral abstention and the eviction of lower social categories, and more specifically blue-collar workers, from political institutions at the national level. The second part, based on a case study, examines these two phenomena in a working-class city near Paris: Aubervilliers. In both cases, my approach is sociohistorical, starting after World War II; I use published statistics for the national level discussion and produce my own data for the local case study. I intend to emphasize the growing political inequalities between social groups and territories and the confiscation by an elite of all the levers of power and decision, leading in particular to the disappearance of the working class as a political actor.

A NATIONAL TEST FOR REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY Since the nineteenth century, elections have been at the core of representative democracies, and they still are. But their centrality is challenged by new forms of representation emerging or reemerging, as well as by growing abstention rates in almost every type of election and in most Western countries.

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Long reserved for a small part of the population, male taxpayer citizens, the right to vote and to be elected was progressively extended in France to all adult citizens. The enlargement of the electorate, gained through long and harsh struggles marked by advances and regressions, was in itself seen as an improvement of democracy and equality: it was the precondition for reinforcing both the quality and fairness of the deliberative process in politics and the “representativeness” of political representation. And the right to vote sanctioned equality between citizens and conferred on every citizen a share of sovereignty, formally suppressing, during the time of election, social and economic differences. The French poet and representative Victor Hugo, in a 1850 speech in support of universal suffrage against proposed restrictions, lyrically defended what he saw as the legacy of the French Revolution, namely, equality of rights and popular sovereignty: “There is one day in the year when the breadwinner, the laborer, the man who drags loads, the man who breaks stones, judges the Senate, takes in his hand hardened by labor ministers, representatives, the President of the Republic, and says: I am the power.”2

When Voters Stay Home But the principle at the core of representative democracies—one person, one vote—seems to have shown its limits: the number of regular voters has strongly declined during the past thirty years as voting has become more sporadic, and abstention rates have therefore risen, even now exceeding sometimes electoral participation, as was the case in the last legislative and municipal elections in France. Admittedly, abstention is not a new phenomenon: Alain Lancelot, in his pioneering work on abstention over a long period (1848–1965), showed that since the establishment of so-called universal suffrage, first for men in 1848 and then including women from 1945 on, abstention in national elections (presidential, legislative, and referendum) was maintained between a minimum of 15 percent (the 1965 presidential election) and a maximum of 36.7 percent (the 1852 legislative election). He calculated that during this period, a little more than a fifth of those registered on the electoral rolls abstained on average (Lancelot, 1968, 19). Becoming a subject of rights did not imply that these rights would be exercised automatically and immediately: the formation of the electorate—not just formally but as acting subjects—required a learning process, a political socialization embedded in social relations, and forms of mobilization supported by political parties, groups of interest, and public institutions such as the school, in order to

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develop a civic habitus. Voting could be seen as a weak form of political mobilization because it requires only the accomplishment of a brief action—inserting a ballot paper in a voting booth—yet electoral mobilization is not a “primitive form of mobilization, as the vote is a reality profoundly institutionalized and socialized” (Huard 1985, 147). Thus, although women gained the right to vote in France in 1944, during the first twenty-five years their abstention rates were consistently between 7 and 12 percent higher than men’s in national as well as local elections, and their vote favored conservative candidates in a higher proportion than that of men did. Things changed from the 1970s on, with female and male abstention rates, as well as political preferences, tending to get closer. Exercising their political rights was tied to the changes in women’s living conditions, and gaining political autonomy was going hand in hand with advances in their socioeconomic independence (Mossuz-Lavau 1993), notably their insertion in the labor market. While the activity ratio was 37.5 percent for women and 67.1 percent for men in 1946 (Maruani and Meron 2012), women’s activity ratio grew continuously and reached 68.2 percent in 2018, getting closer to men’s activity ratio of 75.8 percent. Likewise, young citizens tend to have higher abstention rates and seem to be less inclined to use their electoral right than older citizens, suggesting that the electoral game is related to “social maturity” (Percheron 1985). Of course, political issues and challenges as they are perceived by citizens have an impact on participation. While abstention in presidential elections never exceeded 15 percent on a second round until 1988 in France, there was one exception. It reached 31.15 percent in the 1969 election, when the two candidates competing were conservatives, socialist and communist candidates having been eliminated in the first round. But the tendency is a continuous rise in abstention rates. Even the most emblematic elections—the presidential one, which mobilizes the most voters, and the municipal one, with mayors being by far the most trusted political personalities (CEVIPOF 2019)—do not escape growing disaffection. Ten points of participation were lost between 19653 and 2017 in a presidential election. And for the first time, in the municipal election of March and June 2020, electoral turnout was lower than abstention. More than one voter out of two did not go to the voting booth. It was of course an election held in a very exceptional health context due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But even without counting this particular election, the proportion of voters in the electorate has decreased 15 percent in seventy years, from 76.8 percent in 1947 to 62.1 percent in the second last municipal election of 2014. Yet, reasoning only on the basis of aggregated data—abstention rates—can give the misleading impression that there exists a population of regular abstainers

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whose number is regularly growing. This is not the case. Although abstention rates have been growing regularly over the years for all types of elections, the number of regular abstainers remains relatively low. In the legislative and presidential elections of 2017, among the registered voters, 13.8 percent abstained consistently while only one-third (35.5 percent) voted in all rounds, and a majority (50.8 percent) voted sporadically (Buisson and Penant 2017). What is thus growing is the number of occasional voters, those who may vote but neither every time nor in every election, their number exceeding now that of regular voters. There is therefore no rupture between citizens and the vote, but their relation to it—their civic habitus—has certainly changed. While sporadic voting seems to have become the norm, growing abstention rates may definitely question the quality of the representative process and the legitimacy of those elected by a minority of their fellow citizens. From a normative point of view, one could argue that high abstention rates challenge the very representative character of democracies, especially since we can observe pronounced social variations in relation to electoral participation. Abstention is not distributed randomly; it is strongly related to the concrete forms of life of the different social groups. Participating in elections requires resources and competencies that are unequally distributed. Daniel Gaxie in his pioneering book on political participation, Le Cens caché (The Hidden Tax; 1978), showed that interest in political matters and mastery of political issues, and therefore the tendency to engage in politics, to vote or to abstain, are linked to a set of social factors, among which age and schooling as well as socioprofessional status and stability play a major role. Citizens who are the most deprived of educational capital and the least inserted in regular professional and social relations are more inclined to distance themselves from the political field and have the highest rates of abstention. Political engagement and electoral participation can be triggered when political stakes are high or perceived as such, and they can be facilitated by political training and socialization in political organizations such as parties and unions. But even under these circumstances, electoral inequalities do not disappear. Electoral participation is thus increasingly concentrated within certain groups while it has plummeted in others, drawing strong lines between those who vote regularly and those who do not anymore, estranging the actual electorate from the potential one, and generating high electoral inequalities. This phenomenon is even amplified by another factor. Although enrollment in electoral roles is compulsory in France, the nonobservance of this civic obligation is not sanctioned and remains often ignored. Citizens have to voluntarily take the necessary steps

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and solicit their registration at their town hall.4 And surveys on that issue show that the registration rate varies depending on sociodemographic criteria. While the nonenrollment rate is on average between 7 and 10 percent of the potential electorate, a gap of 11 percent exists between citizens without any degree and those with a high school degree and above (Niel and Lincot 2012). In other words, when abstention rates are mentioned, they are based on the registered population, ignoring those who are not enrolled, and both abstention and lack of registration obey the same general logic. Contemporary democracies still derive their legitimacy from electoral procedures. But winners of elections tend to be increasingly elected by a minority of their fellow citizens, a minority that resembles the latter but is more and more estranged from the general population, and especially from those who abstain. Although surveys show that citizens still consider voting as the most effective way to influence decisions in our democracies, they seem less inclined to exercise this civic right, as their confidence in those elected tends to disappear. This apparent paradox reveals the most legitimate and hidden forms in which political domination is exercised, differentiating “between individuals for whom having an opinion and giving it represents a natural exercise, even a duty, and those who, conversely, are rarely if not never asked how the world should go” (Buton et al. 2016, 15).

When Workers Are Excluded from Political Representation Since the end of World War II, and in an accelerated form since the seventies, the French economy has experienced profound transformations that have had important repercussions for the structure and organization of labor. Notably, the decline of industry and the delocalization of multiple activities have led to a decrease in blue-collar workers.5 Between 1974 and 2019, 2.5 million industrial jobs disappeared. Blue-collar workers, who represented almost 50 percent of the active population at the end of the Second World War, and still 38.9 percent in 1962, remaining until 1990 the most important socioprofessional group, are today 20 percent of the active population (Marchand and Minni 2019).6 During the same period, the rise of unemployment and the restructuring of the labor market have weakened the situation of the working class. Unemployment rates reached 12.4 percent among blue-collar workers in 2019, when the average rate was 8.4 percent, and only 3.5 percent among executives (Insee 2020). And while long-term working contracts remain the legal norm in France, still counting for the majority of working contracts, temporary work and short-term contracts

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have tripled since 1982 (Bornstein and Perdrizet 2019), affecting especially lowskilled jobs: in 2017, 10.6 percent of all blue-collar workers and 22.4 percent of low-skilled industrial blue-collar workers were under short-term contracts, while this was true for only 1.5 percent of executives, the average being 4.5 percent (Jauneau and Vidalenc 2019). However, if the working class—blue-collar workers and low-skilled employees, who share low salaries and low qualification levels, working conditions characterized by little autonomy and job insecurity, and high unemployment rates— have lost weight in the labor structure in France, they still constitute almost half of the active population. And one man out of three occupying a job is a blue-collar worker (Jauneau and Vidalenc 2020). However, their demographic weight in the socioprofessional structure does not translate into political representation. Not one single blue-collar worker sat in the National Assembly elected in June 2017, and among its 577 representatives, only 4 were low-skilled employees. The situation that prevails in the Senate that was elected in September 2020 is even worse: no blue-collar worker and no low-skilled employee sits among the 348 senators. Conversely, senior executives and executives represent 60 percent of representatives, three times more than their share in the active population, giving the so-called national representation “a reverse image of the social structure” (Gaxie 1980, 6). The political underrepresentation of the lower social classes is not a new phenomenon, but it has intensified in France since the 1970s, and they are completely absent from the parliament. And what is observed at the national level exists with little attenuation on the local levels. Thus, in the 2020 municipal elections, only 1 percent of elected mayors were blue-collar workers and 7.8 percent were low-skilled employees, while executives counted for 16.2 percent.7 In explaining the disappearance of the working class from almost all elected political bodies in France, two factors played major roles: the way candidates were selected and the increasing professionalization of politics on the one hand, and the heavy loss of political influence of the Communist Party and its satellite organizations, as well as its ideological and political shifts, on the other hand. Even the local municipal level, while remaining slightly more open to social diversity, is becoming more selective and hierarchical, particularly in larger cities, given the enhancement of the skills necessary to govern, especially when dealing with numerous and changing rules and procedures and when carrying out complex projects. Moreover, although holding a political position in an elected body is not considered a paid job per se (politicians receive an allowance and not

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a salary), the number and proportion of politicians who have had no other career than political and have never exercised a job other than one related to politics (as staffers or aids for representatives, for example), have grown substantially during the last forty years, reaching in some cases one-third of the whole elected body (Boelaert, Michon, and Ollion 2017). This trend leads to an increased professionalization of political life. Being a politician has become a career, which also means that entering into politics has a higher cost for nonexperts. Furthermore, social categories deemed as incompetent tend to censor themselves or are relegated to subordinate positions. All these factors lead to “the confiscation of power by an old and masculine social and local elite” (Koebel and Vignon 2013, 11), mostly “white.” For a long period of time, the French Communist Party has been seen as the “working-class party,” the party of those deprived of social and cultural capital, valorizing the industrial world through the emblematic figures of the miner and the steel worker, while promoting blue-collar militants and building a workingclass elite that would get high-responsibility positions, not only within the party and its satellite organizations (unions, youth, women, or pensioners organizations, etc.), but also in public institutions, as well as in local and national elections (Mischi 2007). In his study of French representatives elected between 1958 and 2008, Luc Rouban showed that more than 80 percent of those belonging to the Communist Party were of modest origin, by far the highest percentage compared to all other political parties (Rouban 2011). And the party’s proximity to the working class also enabled it to gain a local political foothold in industrial cities and territories. In the Paris region, for example, from the end of World War II to the 1980s, the Communist Party was able to build a red bastion. At least one-third of all municipalities were administrated by communists, and in 1977 one-third of the population in the region was living in a city ruled by communists. The decline of the Communist Party’s influence is partially tied to the huge transformations in the socioeconomic sphere: the deindustrialization after the 1970s led to the disappearance of entire segments of industries and traditional industrial jobs, as labor insecurity and mass unemployment grew. Alongside permanent working positions, which permitted a professional and a class identity associated with a sense of dignity, various types of labor contracts developed (subcontracted or temporary jobs), fractioning the working class and weakening its social and political representation, as well as the organizations it was part of and/or that represented it: the Communist Party and its satellite union, the General Confederation of Labor in the first place.

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Apart from these socioeconomic transformations, the ideological shifts in the party itself, regarding the “centrality” of the working class in its instances as well as in the political and electoral sphere, have played a major role in the weakening of blue-collar representation in French political life. During the 1970s, in line with the “common program of government” signed between the communists, the socialists, and the left radicals, the Communist Party did welcome younger members as well as members from the middle and upper classes alongside its traditional working-class component, within its governing body and also among candidates it presented in local and national elections. Fewer blue-collar workers were thus able to gain elected positions. Furthermore, the professionalization of politics did not spare the Communist Party. Although part of its executive body is still from the working class, many have actually spent their professional life in politics, as staffers, political aids, or civil servants in communist municipalities, and no longer in factories. The loss of centrality of the working class in the Communist Party was aggravated in the 1970s by the emergence of a new discourse and political stance, with the party presenting itself not so much as the “working-class party” anymore but, on the one hand, as the party representing the poor and the disadvantaged, substituting the classist reference for a poverty-oriented picture, and on the other hand, as the party embodying and representing society in its diversity. In doing so, it was losing its working-class singularity (Mischi 2007). Not only was the working class demographically fragmented and economically weakened, but it was also politically and symbolically fading. How does this evolution translate at the local level in the history and sociology of a disadvantaged city? This is what I will now analyze.

A LOCAL SCENE IN THE PARIS REGION With almost 90,000 inhabitants, Aubervilliers is one of the major cities in the Paris region. It is also the fourth poorest city in France, with 42 percent of its inhabitants living under the poverty line in 20178—as well as one of the most diverse from an ethnoracial point of view: 43 percent of the population are immigrants, 37 percent have a foreign citizenship, and more than eight young inhabitants out of ten under twenty-five years of age have at least one parent who is a migrant. A working-class city since the nineteenth century, Aubervilliers was hit hard by deindustrialization after the 1970s, when its numerous factories closed one after the other and a great many blue-collar jobs

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were lost, jeopardizing the popular social, cultural, and political ecosystem. After decades of demographic decline, job losses, and impoverishment, since 2000 the city has been regaining population, with new economic sectors developing, mostly in wholesale and services. The political history of Aubervilliers is quite remarkable. Being a communist stronghold for more than seventy years, it is part of what was until recently called the Paris Red Belt.9 Indeed, since World War II, the French Communist Party has been the major political force. Among the eight mayors elected since 1947, six were members of the Communist Party, three of them being blue-color workers, and the communist domination remained uninterrupted until 2008.10 Two of its mayors became secretary of state in coalition governments during critical moments of the national history. The first mayor elected after World War II, Charles Tillon, a member of the Provisional Consultative Assembly, was chosen by General de Gaulle in 1945 to become his minister of armaments, in times when the Communist Party was the strongest party in France; he then became minister of reconstruction and urban development under President Vincent Auriol from January until May 1947.11 More than three decades later, Jack Ralite, mayor of Aubervilliers from 1984 until 2003, became minister of health and then minister of employment from 1981 until 1984 during François Mitterrand’s presidency, under the banner of the Union de la gauche, an alliance with a common platform of socialists, communists, and left radicals. After seventy-three years of political domination by the left, to the surprise of many, Aubervilliers was conquered by a union of centrists and conservatives in the 2020 last municipal election due to the ruinous rivalry between two progressive lists, each comprising communist candidates.12 This long period of left-wing dominance was marked by structural changes of two sorts. First, while from 1947 until the 1970s blue-collar workers had played a major role in the local political life and many had served as mayors, deputy mayors, or city councilors, their number began to decrease, and they eventually disappeared from the last elected municipal body in 2020. Second, whereas since 1945, despite important demographic, social, and economic transformations, a majority of voters favored leftist candidates in every local, regional, and national election, this political resilience came along with a dramatic increase in political abstention, the city being today one of those with the highest rates of abstention in the country. These two phenomena—the political eviction of the working class and the growing abstention rates—make Aubervilliers a particularly interesting case to study. The research I have conducted there is based on archival work on seventy

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years of municipal elections, focusing in particular on lists of candidates, policy statements and manifestos, interviews with local officials, and observation of the two last municipal elections. Moreover, I became familiar with the local situation because I served as an appointed city manager in Aubervilliers between 2012 and 2015.

Blue-Collar Workers in Politics: From Dominance to Disappearance The second municipal elections after World War II took place on October 19 and 26, 1947.13 The war had just ended, and the country was still traumatized. Aubervilliers had paid a heavy toll in destructions, deaths, deportees, and prisoners (some of them only coming back home months after the war had ended). The Republican and Antifascist Union list led by Charles Tillon, a communist, trade union leader, former metalworker, member of the Résistance, and commander in chief of the FTPF (Francs-tireurs et partisans français), won the election on the first round, with 56.2 percent of the ballots in favor of his list (see table 15.1). For the first time, the municipality, which had been ruled by Pierre Laval from 1923 until his exile in 1944 when he tried to avoid being arrested for having been the head of the Vichy government, chose a communist mayor, while the electoral participation reached 79.4 percent, more than what was observed at the national level: 76.8 percent. Among the thirty-five candidates composing Charles Tillon’s list, thirteen were blue-collar workers. In this city where more than one elector out of two was a blue-collar worker, one candidate out of three was also a blue-collar worker on average in the four lists in competition. Twenty-three percent of them were elected and became city councilors. Until 1989, the Communist Party won each election on the first round by large margins—alone in 1947, 1953, 1959, and 1965,14 with the Socialist Party in 1971, and in a broader leftist coalition in 1977, 1983, and 1989. Each election brought a communist mayor at the head of the local executive body. Émile Dubois, a résistant and deportee who was a retired gaz worker and a unionist, remained mayor from 1953 until his death. André Karman, also a résistant and deportee who was a milling-machine worker, succeeded him and was reelected five times until his death in 1984. The last election won on the first round took place in 1989, and for the first time in forty years, the elected mayor was not a blue-collar worker: Jack Ralite was a journalist. No blue-collar worker was ever elected mayor after that point. After Jack Ralite, who won four elections and remained mayor until 2003, the city was ruled successively by a schoolteacher, a physician, a civil servant, and a school principal, each of them remaining in office for only one term.


Total score of the left, including socialists (%)










Source: Aubervilliers. Municipal elections since 1947. Municipal Archives. Personal analysis.


Score of lists led by communists (%)






























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From 1947 until 1971, blue-collar workers remained the most important socioprofessional group among candidates as well as among the elected councilors, representing between 25 and 43 percent of the candidates (all lists included), and between 23 and 54 percent of the elected councilors, mostly thanks to the Communist Party, which always presented the largest number of blue-collar workers: never less than a third of its candidates and often more than half of them (see table 15.2). But after the 1971 election, even in the lists presented by the Communist Party, their number and proportion declined, while those of executives and senior executives increased. These were also the years when Aubervilliers’s population grew, rapidly compensating for the losses due to the war (between 1935 and 1946 the population decreased by 5 percent). From 53,000 inhabitants in 1946, the population rose to 73,695 inhabitants in 1968, thanks to high fertility rates and immigration. The local economy was essentially based on manufacturing industries that required an important workforce—chemistry, steel, and pharmaceutical industries, mechanical construction, oil manufacturers, match and perfume factories, fertilizer plants, and slaughterhouses. And until the beginning of the 1970s, blue-collar workers represented the largest socioprofessional group, counting for 53 percent of the working population and shaping the social and cultural life of the city. The year 1995 marked a turning point in local political history and a first breach in the Communist Party’s hegemony. For the first time, the party did not win the election in the first round, and that would never happen again. Jack Ralite needed a second round, which he won by a short majority of 50.5 percent. This novel situation was partly due to the large number of lists (seven, the highest number reached since 1947). It also bore witness to the decline of the Communist Party’s political influence at the national level. The first French political party in 1946 with 28.4 percent of the votes in the legislative election,15 it had shrunk to 9.1 percent of the votes in the election of 1993.16 Its municipal anchorage remained strong and it still governed many towns and cities, but its position was no longer guaranteed, even in its historical strongholds, given the dispersion of its traditional constituency’s votes between new political offers17 and the growing abstention rates, especially among the working class. In the case of Aubervilliers, however, another factor was decisive, namely, the divisions within the party itself. This election revealed the dissension existing between those who remained attached to the traditional class-based vision of society and the centrality of blue-collar workers within the party, and those who supported the left coalition strategy and an opening to other social categories, as well as a discourse more oriented toward the “poor,” with this second orientation progressively prevailing.



% Blue-collar workers and employees

% Senior executives

















Source: Aubervilliers. Municipal elections since 1947. Municipal Archives. Personal analysis.


% Blue-collar workers



































324 Affected Communities

As a result, two lists of candidates, each one led by a communist, ran against each other in the first round: Jean-Jacques Karman represented the first line and got 19 percent of the votes, and Jack Ralite, the incumbent mayor, who favored the second position, reached 31.2 percent of the voters. Not only did they represent two different political lines within the party, but they also embodied two different social and political trajectories. Jean-Jacques Karman could be seen as (literally) the heir and representative of the traditional local working-class political elite. Born in Aubervilliers, son of the former mayor André Karman, who was a milling-machine worker and also a native of the city, he was a blue-collar worker himself in his first professional years and was then politically trained through the party’s institutions to work his way up. In contrast, Jack Ralite, who was born in Châlons-sur-Marne and moved to Aubervilliers in his thirties, was a journalist in the communist newspaper L’Humanité. Deputy mayor for André Karman in 1959, he was elected representative in the National Assembly in 1971, where he remained until 1981 before becoming one of the three communist ministers in François Mitterrand’s coalition government in 1983. While blue-collar workers still represented 16 percent of the councilors in the 1995 municipality, their share fell to 8 percent in 2001 and to 2 percent in 2008 and 2014. Ultimately, no blue-collar worker was sitting in the municipal council elected in 2020. This decline reflected, on the one hand, the deep social and economic transformations that had taken place in the city, particularly the fragmentation and transformation of the local working class, estranging it from unionism and political activism, and on the other hand, the evolution of the Communist Party itself, its electoral decline and what could be called a de-workerization in its ideology and discourse (Mischi 2007) as well as in its electoral practices. The demography and sociology of the city had indeed changed drastically after the 1970s. The population had significantly decreased: from 1968 until 1999, the city lost 10,500 inhabitants. Most of this decline was the consequence of fewer blue-collar workers. While they represented the largest socioprofessional group until the 1970s, they registered the largest shrinkage: almost half of their workforce disappeared—from 20,688 blue-collar workers in 1968, they withered to 10,736 in 1999—and their share in the labor force declined from 53 percent in 1968 to 36 percent in 1999. While the active population diminished by 22.4 percent during this period, blue-collar workers declined twice as much. This evolution corresponded to the immense wave of factory closings and job disappearances in manufacturing industries that began in the 1970s. Blue-collar workers then lost their dominant position within the labor force. This is not to say that they disappeared. Contrary to what the evolution of the Communist Party and even

Democracy Without Demos 325 

common sense suggest, they still represented 30 percent of the workforce in 2017. But as the industry sector declined from 30 percent of the jobs in 1992 to 7.6 percent in 2017, the unemployment rate skyrocketed from 6.2 percent to 23.1 percent between 1975 and 2017, particularly affecting low-skilled employees and blue-collar workers (Insee and Dares 2020).18 In sum, although Aubervilliers remains a city with a majority of low-income households, with blue-collar workers and low-skilled employees together accounting for 67 percent of the active population, the former working-class culture and sociability have largely disappeared. The industrial blue-collar workers, who shared work conditions and interests and were supported by strong unions to which they often belonged, have given way to more isolated workers with precarious labor contracts who are less inserted in peer collectives, often immigrants without French citizenship, and easier to exploit in the new work organization. They have also lost their weight and visibility in local politics and are now estranged from their local representatives. While blue-collar workers were the preeminent socioprofessional group in the local government for thirty years and still occupied a significant place until the mid-1990s, their presence in the municipal council declined until they entirely disappeared from the political scene.

When Abstention Is the New Norm In 1947, participation reached 79.4 percent in the municipal election in Aubervilliers, almost 3 percent beyond the national level. In the following decades, abstention rates regularly rose. From being a strong social and civic norm until the 1960s, voting became less significant from then on. The 1989 municipal election marked a turning point because abstention for the first time exceeded electoral turnout. In the next thirty years, the trend continued. While little less than half of the electorate voted in the 2001 and 2008 municipal elections, the proportion declined to 42.1 percent in 2014 and to 32.4 percent in 2020 (see table 15.3). Abstention rose much more rapidly than at the national level as Aubervilliers became one of the cities with the highest rate of nonvoting, with 20 percent less turnout. But abstention is not equally distributed within the population. As is the case on the national level, the fractions of the population less inserted in stable professional and social relations tend to abstain more frequently. In the 2008 municipal election, while the average abstention rate was 53 percent, seven young people out of ten aged eighteen to twenty-four did not vote, when it was the case for one out of two between forty and fifty-four years old, and even less for senior



1953 28.6

1959 28.7

1965 35.8

1971 34.3

1977 37.4


Source: Aubervilliers. Municipal elections since 1947. Municipal Archives. Personal analysis.

% Abstention

1947 49.8

1989 48.7











Democracy Without Demos 327 

people. Abstention is also much higher in the poorest neighborhoods: between 15 and 18 percent of abstention rates separate the polling stations situated in the neighborhoods concentrating the wealthiest fraction of the population from the poorest ones. The decrease in voting is even aggravated by the phenomenon of nonenrollment or wrong enrollment. As was discussed earlier, a gap exists between the potential electorate and the actual one: not all citizens who could legally be enrolled are, enrolling being a voluntary gesture. While on average one out of ten potential voters19 is not registered on the electoral roll in France, this was the case for one out of four in Aubervilliers in 2013 (Defossez and Pavasovic 2013). With a percentage almost three times higher than the average rate in France, Aubervilliers gets close to the situation observed in sensitive urban zones (Braconnier, Dormagen, and Verrier 2007).20 Moreover, many are incorrectly enrolled: they include students who are still registered at their parents’ place, young professionals transferred from another city, and homeless people or people living in precarious conditions. As forced or chosen spatial mobility increases, people are more frequently registered but in the wrong polling station, and therefore unable to vote if they wish to do so. It is estimated that 17 percent of citizens are wrongly registered in France, generating what can be described as a structural abstention aggravating the electoral demobilization, especially in poor neighborhoods (Braconnier et al. 2007). Thus the number of citizens registered on the electoral rolls in 1947 and in 2020 was almost the same (29,495 in 1947, 29,467 in 2020) despite the growth of the city’s demography during the same period from 53,000 (1946 census) to 86,700 (2020 census), an increase of 63.6 percent. In other words, the proportion of people registered on the electoral roll in relation to the whole population decreased by 20 points, from 54 percent to 34 percent. Part of the decrease was due to sociological changes, in particular the considerable increase in immigrants from countries out of the European Union (EU), who are not entitled to vote.21 A large majority of the city’s adult population is thus no longer directly concerned, deliberately or not, with the act of voting. Combined with the high abstention rates observed since the 2000s, this evolution shows a civic step back or at least the transformation of the relation to the civic act of voting, and it questions the legitimacy of municipal assemblies elected by a small proportion of citizens, let alone residents. In 2020 in this city of more than 86,000 inhabitants, the winner was elected by 44.5 percent of voters on the second round, but this proportion represented 4,668 ballots, that is, 15.8 percent of the actual electorate and 9 percent of the whole adult population.

328 Affected Communities

Without establishing a relationship between the socioeconomic transformations experienced by Aubervilliers since the 1970s and the critical rise of abstention, their simultaneous occurrence suggests various hypotheses that have been tested in studies conducted in neighboring cities with similar characteristics and are confirmed by my own data. Until the 1970s, abstention in municipal elections occurred in less than one-third of the electorate in Aubervilliers, although that was already higher than the average level in France. Voting was still a strong social norm. For the generations born during and immediately after World War II, voting was considered a civic duty. This was particularly the case in Aubervilliers, considering the shared memory of the sacrifices made during these harsh times, often embodied by the candidates themselves, in particular those belonging to the Communist Party who had been part of the Résistance and had been deported to Nazi camps. This situation favored a strong electoral mobilization, with votes for the communists. Remarkably, acts achieved in the Résistance, feats of arms, or war medals were frequent in the documents presenting the candidates for municipal elections and in their political manifestos as late as the 1980s. Calling itself the Parti des 75,000 fusillés,22 the Communist Party benefited for years after the war from this aura. This was also a symbolic and unifying element for voters, even for those born after the war, as voting became a way of recognizing the dedication and courage displayed by some for the benefit of all. These years also corresponded to a time when blue-collar workers were at their height in the local workforce as well as in the municipal elected body. Belonging to social and political organizations often tied to the Communist Party, many of them were also members of unions, notably the CGT. References to political and unionist engagements were common on the lists of candidates presented by the Communist Party until 1995: on the one hand, voters could recognize themselves in their candidates and therefore were inclined to vote for them, and on the other hand, their own engagement in unions found a natural continuation in the political arena. More generally, their participation in social relations (friends, comrades, colleagues) exerted a positive influence on voting. Through this participation, the group exerted moral control over individual actions: not voting would then be seen as a transgression (Percheron, Subileau, and Toinet 1987). The closing of factories and the destruction of industrial jobs undermined the very foundations of the working class’s sociability and culture as well as the unions’ presence and influence. And while the Communist Party was losing ground, the spaces of political socialization were drastically reduced. The jobs available tended to be more precarious, offering less autonomy and stability to the new

Democracy Without Demos 329 

generations of blue-collar workers and low-ranking employees. Yet research on the link between working conditions and civic attitudes shows that the more autonomy, security, and participation in decision making workers have in their jobs, the more they are inclined to develop active political behavior (Lopes, Lagoa, and Calapez 2014). Conversely, a working environment that is more precarious and fragmented tends to estrange citizens from political engagement. In other words, the destructuring of the working class and its distancing from the local political elite rendered its members less concerned with elections because they increasingly had the impression that they were not represented by their alleged representatives.

The attachment French citizens have to democracy has not waned: almost 90 percent declare that it is not only a good but also the best political system (Cevipof 2019). Yet a majority of them think that democracy does not work correctly. In particular, they do not trust their representatives anymore, seeing them as motivated only by their own interests. Nor do they at present rely much on political institutions such as political parties or unions to speak for them. And while more than six persons out of ten still think that voting in elections is the most effective way to speak up, voting has become more sporadic and abstention rates have risen considerably. More than a contradiction between declarations and practices, is this not an implicit critique of what appears to be a broken democratic promise? Democracy is in crisis not because citizens no longer adhere to its principles but, on the contrary, because they consider that these very principles are not respected by those who are supposed to defend them. While inequalities are growing between social groups and administrative territories, leaving up to 14  percent of the population under the poverty line and 45 percent of households with difficulties in making ends meet, while children of blue-collar workers and low-skilled employees, compared to children of executives, have a probability twice lower of getting a bachelor’s degree and four times lower of getting a master’s degree, and while unemployment affects four times more blue-collar workers than senior executives, the principle of equality is nothing more than a motto engraved on the pediment of public edifices. What is left of the people’s sovereignty when, election after election, offices are more and more concentrated in the hands of the middle and upper classes, excluding almost totally the working class for the benefit of a new political oligarchy? Not surprisingly, the policies conducted especially during the forty years of conservative governments have

330 Affected Communities

tended to favor neoliberal economic measures, debilitating the welfare system put in place after World War II, meeting the expectations of the market, and enriching the wealthiest more than responding to the needs of the majority of the population. The longest political mobilization that has occurred in France since May 1968, the Gilets Jaunes movement, was triggered by a rise of gas prices and the issue of purchasing power.23 It came after several measures had been taken to reduce the taxes paid by companies and the richest, while social benefits for the poor and the retired were reduced and reform of the labor code imbalanced the power relation between employers and employees to the disadvantage of the latter. But the protesters rapidly broadened their critique to political institutions, denouncing the elitist character of the national representation and calling for renewed forms of democracy. The high abstention rates observed notably among the working class, the unemployed, the youths, and the residents of deprived neighborhoods, as well as the concentration of political power in the hands of a new oligarchy, thus translate in the political sphere to social, economic, and territorial fractures in French society.

NOTES 1. From the Arab Springs to Los Indignados in Spain and the multiple Occupy movements, or more recently the Gilets jaunes in France, these movements, while triggered by austerity measures, rapidly turned into a critique of the way democracy works and experiment with direct forms of organization and decision making, refusing even the very notion of representation: decisions were made in general assemblies, and no delegates were entitled to represent or to speak for the group. 2. Victor Hugo: The Universal Suffrage, Speech at the National Assembly on May 21, 1850. -parlementaires/victor-hugo-21-mai-1850. 3. The 1965 presidential election, held on December 5 and December 19, was the first direct presidential election in the Fifth Republic. In 1958, the president was elected by an electoral college. 4. Since 2001, only youths turning eighteen are systematically registered if they have participated in the “defense and citizenship” day. 5. In this chapter, I am translating the French socioprofessional category ouvriers used in public statistics into the English expression “blue-collar workers,” and employés into “low-skilled employees,” these two groups forming the working class. The category cadres and professions intellectuelles supérieures is translated into “senior executives,” and professions intermédiaires is translated into “executives.” They form part of the white-collar workers.

Democracy Without Demos 331  6. Low-skilled employees have seen their proportion grow from 15 percent in 1946, to 18.3 percent in 1962, to 27 percent today. Senior executives and executives—the white-collar workers—showed the largest progressions: together they form 44 percent of jobs today compared with 15.8 percent in 1962. 7. Retirees represented more than 40 percent of the elected mayors (twice their weight in the population), and farmers, although not numerous in the active population, were still well represented among mayors, given the number of rural municipalities: 72 percent of the French municipalities count fewer than 1,000 inhabitants. 8. The poverty line is set at 60 percent of the medium standard of living; that is about 1,000 euros each month for a person alone or 2,500 euros for a couple with two teenagers. 9. The “Red Belt” refers to the municipalities administered by the Communist Party: between one-third and one-fourth of the cities in the Paris periurban area (the Banlieue) were held by the Communist Party between 1947 and 2008. 10. On the second round in that election, communists and socialists did not reach an agreement, as they usually had before. As a consequence, the list led by a socialist won the election. But the communist list won the following election again, in 2014. 11. At this time the five communist ministers were dismissed because of profound disagreements on the colonial question as well as on the support communists were giving to workers’ claims for better salaries, against the government’s position. 12. One of them was led by the incumbent mayor, a communist and the first woman to govern the city, who was also the first mayor from immigrant descent. 13. The first municipal elections took place on April 29 and May 13, 1945, in difficult conditions due to the postwar context. That year, women could exercise their right to vote and be elected for the first time. 14. The Communist Party presented the only list in competition in the 1965 election. 15. It won the highest number of representatives in the legislative election and reached the second-best results in the municipal election the same year, with 30 percent of the votes. 16. And to 2.72 percent in the legislative election of 2017. 17. Alongside the lists presented by the “traditional” progressive or conservative parties in Aubervilliers, new lists appeared in the local political scene from the seventies on: lists supported by far-left parties, lists without a political label whose legitimacy derived from their local integration, even once (in 1995) a list supported by the National Front, the farright party. 18. In 2018 in Aubervilliers, 40.3 percent of the population over fifteen years old had either no degree or a certificate of primary education at best, twice as much as the national average (Insee 2021). 19. By potential voters I mean French and European nationals eighteen years old and above. 20. A sensitive urban zone (zone urbaine sensible or ZUS) is characterized by a concentration of social difficulties such as high unemployment rates, a high percentage of public housing, and high poverty levels. These zones were created by law in 1996 and are high-priority targets for public policies. Since 2015, they have received a new name: priority neighborhoods for urban policy (quartiers prioritaires de la politique de la ville). About 1,500 of these areas exist in 702 municipalities, with more than 5 million inhabitants, that is, almost 10 percent of the national population.

332 Affected Communities 21. Since 1992 and the Maastricht treaty, citizens from EU countries can become candidates and have the right to vote in municipal and European elections. 22. This number was contested by historians. Jean-Pierre Besse and Thomas Pouty, in Les fusillés: Répression et exécutions pendant l’occupation 1940–1944 (Paris: Atelier, 2006), estimate that 4,520 persons were shot in France by firing squads during the war. However, 80 to 90 percent among them were communists. 23. For an analysis of the movement of the yellow vests, see Fassin and Defossez 2019.

REFERENCES Boelaert, Julien, Sébastien Michon, and Étienne Ollion. 2017. Métier: député. Enquête sur la professionnalisation de la politique en France. Paris: Raisons d’agir. Bornstein, Anne, and Werner Perdrizet. 2019. Le développement des contrats de très courte durée en France. Trésor-Eco, No. 238. Braconnier, Céline, Jean-Yves Dormagen, and Benoît Verrier. 2007. Non-inscrits, mal-inscrits et abstentionnistes: diagnostic et pistes pour une réforme sur les listes électorales. Paris: La Documentation française. Briquet, Jean-Louis, and Frédéric Sawicki. 1989. “L’analyse localisée du politique.” Politix 2, nos. 7–8: 6–16. Buisson, Guillemette, and Sandrine Penant. 2017. Élections présidentielle et législative 2017: neuf inscrits sur dix ont voté à au moins un tour de scrutin. INSEE Première, No. 1670. Buton, François, Patrick Lehingue, Nicolas Mariot, and Sabine Rozier, eds. 2016. L’ordinaire du politique: Enquêtes sur les rapports profanes au politique. Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion. Cevipof SciencesPo. 2019. En quoi les Français ont-ils confiance aujourd’hui? Baromètre de la confiance politique—vague 10. Defossez, Anne-Claire, and Mirjana Pavasovic. 2013. “Inscription et participation électorales à Aubervilliers.” Aubervilliers: Municipal Council. Fassin, Didier, and Anne-Claire Defossez. 2019. “An Improbable Movement? Macron’s France and the Rise of the Gilets Jaunes.” New Left Review 115: 77–92. Gaxie, Daniel. 1978. Le Cens caché: Inégalités culturelles et ségrégation politique. Paris: Le Seuil. Huard, Raymond. 1985. “Comment apprivoiser le suffrage universel?” In Explication du vote: Un bilan des études électorales en France, ed. Daniel Gaxie, 126–48. Paris: Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques. Insee, and Dares. 2020. Emploi, chômage, revenus du travail. Collection INSEE Références. Insee. 2021. Dossier complet. Commune d’Aubervillers. ?geo=COM-93001. Insee. 2021. Dossier complet. France. #chiffre-cle-4. Jauneau, Yves, and Joëlle Vidalenc. 2019. Les salariés en contrat court: Des allers-retours plus fréquents entre emploi, chômage et inactivité. Insee Première, No. 1736. Jauneau, Yves, and Joëlle Vidalenc. 2020. Une photographie du marché du travail en 2019. Insee Première, No. 1793.

Democracy Without Demos 333  Koebel, Michel, and Sébastien Vignon. 2013. “Les enjeux des élections municipales.” Savoir/agir 25, no. 3: 9–12. Lancelot, Alain. 1968. L’Abstentionnisme électoral en France. Paris: Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques. Lopes, Helena, Sérgio Lagoa, and Teresa Calapez. 2014. “Declining Autonomy at Work in the EU and Its Effect on Civic Behavior.” Economic and Industrial Democracy 35, no. 2. Marchand, Olivier, and Minni, Claude. 2019. “The Major Transformations of the French Labour Market Since the Early 1960s.” Economie et Statistique / Economics and Statistics, 510-511-512, 89–107. Maruani, Margaret, and Monique Meron. 2012. Un siècle de travail des femmes en France: 1901–2011. Paris: La Découverte, collection Sciences humaines. Mischi, Julian. 2007. “Le PCF et les classes populaires”. Nouvelles Fondations 6, no. 2: 15–23. https:// Mossuz-Lavau, Janine. 1993. “Le vote des femmes en France (1945–1993).” Revue française de science politique 43, no. 4: 673–89. Niel, Xavier, and Liliane Lincot. 2012. L’Inscription et la participation électorale en 2012: Qui est inscrit et qui vote. Insee Première, No. 1411. Observatoire des inégalités. 2017. Les communes les plus touchées par la pauvreté. Analyses. https:// Percheron, Annick. 1985. “Age, cycle de vie, génération, période et comportement électoral.” In Explication du vote: Un bilan des études électorales en France, ed. Daniel Gaxie, 228–62. Paris: Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques. Percheron, Annick, Françoise Subileau, and Marie-France Toinet. 1987. “Non-inscription, abstention et vote blanc et nul en France.” Espace Population Sociétés 3: 511–21. Pitkin, Hanna F. 1967. The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press. Rouban, Luc. 2011. Les députés. Cahiers du Cevipof, No.55. Saward, Michael. 2006. “The Representative Claim.” Contemporary Political Theory 5, no. 3: 297–318. Sintomer, Yves. 2013. “Les Sens de la représentation politique: Usages et mesusages d’une notion.” Raisons Politiques 2, no. 50: 13–34. Urbinati, Nadia, and Mark E. Warren. 2008. “The Concept of Representation in Contemporary Democratic Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science 11: 387–412.

PART FOUR Reflexive Perspectives


16 New Technologies and the Moral Economy of White Nationalism HEC TO R AMAYA


n August 11, 2017, my wife and I had to decide our level of participation in the protest against the Unite the Right rally, the name given by a diverse group of organizations that included neoNazi groups, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and dozens of other white supremacist groups, in a political gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia. The rally was being held to protest against the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from a park in downtown Charlottesville. Lee, a general who fought for the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War, had come to represent, with other southern military figures, a hero to contemporary white supremacists. In the months prior, the white nationalists had shown up in Charlottesville a couple of times but always in small groups, and they were hugely outnumbered by counter-protesters. We thought the same would happen this time, until that Friday, August 11, when we saw and learned of the hundreds and hundreds that were arriving. The event we decided to attend was at the First United Methodist Church, across the street from the University of Virginia, where both my wife and I taught. We had learned that Reverend Traci Blackmon and Cornell West would be there and were excited to listen to their words. The church was packed, but toward the end of the program we learned that hundreds of white nationalists were gathered outside the church with torches, angrily chanting “You will not replace us,” intermixed with the anti-Semitic “Jews will not replace us.” Their actions began with a symbolic attack against African Americans by protesting the removal of Lee’s statue, and through chants and signs their protest also

338 Reflexive Perspectives

conveyed deep anti-Semitism, deep anti-Muslim sentiments, and, sometimes overlooked in the coverage of Charlottesville, deep anti-immigrant sentiment. The replacement of the statue, after all, would be done by people who look like me, Latinx immigrants. The Unite the Right protesters eventually left the church and marched in the opposite direction, toward the heart of the University of Virginia and toward a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the university, the writer of the U.S. Constitution, and a slaveholder, a man who embodied the contradictions of our history. In front of that controversial statue, the first occurrence of violence of the weekend erupted. Being in Charlottesville during this time intellectually and emotionally rattled me. I have been a part of political protests in other contexts, other nations, but those protests from my past targeted governments. In Charlottesville, citizens fought against citizens with police forces, outmatched, standing by the side, unwilling to interfere. What was worse, these were confrontations between groups of citizens in which one group, the Unite the Right coalition, came armed, prepared, and anxious to fight. They came with weapons, guns and rifles clearly visible on their bodies; they came with armor, helmets, sticks, and bats, a mixture of objects that allowed them to be protected, but objects that were clearly weapons for attacking, not just defending themselves. State security forces, the FBI, the police in Charlottesville, and the police of the University of Virginia knew this and did nothing to stop it. They knew because they were monitoring the websites that the Unite the Right people used to organize, and these websites included, in great detail, their preparations and their violent objectives. It has been impossible for me to stay away from the issues surrounding white nationalism. I began writing about it in the context of growing anti-Latino nativist sentiment after 9/11, but in those projects, my focus was divided.1 I was interested in nativists only insofar as they helped me understand contemporary Latinx life, and although in the process I had diagnosed the impending rise of ethnonationalist sentiment in the United States, it is only after Charlottesville that I refocused my attention and centered my research on violent white nationalism. The reason is simple. White nationalism represents two intersecting crises in the West: an ethnic crisis that reveals the profound connection between Western nation-states and European heritage, and a crisis of masculinity read against the bodies and potential of white males. To majorities, the ethnic crisis that white nationalists represent may seem like the fringe activities of a small segment of the population. To minorities, to black, Jewish, and Muslim communities, the targets

New Technologies and the Moral Economy of White Nationalism  339 

of their rage and violence, white nationalism is a significant crisis that marks our fragile standing in the polis. In addition to the events in Charlottesville, this article is inspired by the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand that left fifty-one people dead and forty-nine people injured. The pairing brings together two events that are different except for their connection to white nationalism. Yet, by pairing these two events, separated by thousands of miles and an ocean, I hope to show white nationalism as a transnational phenomenon that brings communities and individuals from dramatically different contexts together. What bridges such different contexts is not a shared experience of crisis, but a shared hermeneutic framework that helps individuals in Australia, the United States, and Europe to interpret their realities and particular challenges they face from the perspective of white victimhood. With these events in mind, I analyze white nationalism using E. P. Thompson’s analytic framework of moral economy.2 I am particularly interested in how moral economy helps us understand white nationalism as protestation, and I also argue that only a framework like moral economy can help us make sense of this type of politics. The reason is that, as Thompson taught us, not every social conflict can or should be explained by political economy. The reasons for conflict, the reasons for rioting, the reasons for protesting, and the reasons for violence are not only the by-product of economic inequalities, and protestation is not simply the attempt to remedy a lack of wealth or, in the case of the riots Thompson analyzed, the lack of bread. There are other reasons that can better explain a subset of conflicts, and we must understand these with frameworks other than political economy. Thompson’s moral economic framework solves some issues, but not all. It gives us another point of departure and a different set of determinants, but it is a framework caught in its time. This article also argues that to apply Thompson’s approach today, we must expand our understandings of moral economy so that we can account for the changing spatial infrastructure of belief and traditional rights that constitute new hermeneutic modalities. New media technologies such as the World Wide Web have transformed the manner in which belief and rights are constituted, and this transformation has the capacity to alter the foundations of protestation. I will show that a vacillation between digital and conventional materiality at the heart of contemporary life invigorates nativism and xenophobia and engenders perplexing displays of ethnic and nationalistic hate that often rely on different understandings of time and space.

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MORAL ECONOMY AS AN ANALYTIC TOOL Thompson used the term “moral economy” to craft a novel explanation of bread riots in England in the eighteenth century. He was clearly dissatisfied with the way historians explained these events. Older explanations tended to talk about the riots in conservative ways, as examples of how the poor can easily cross the line of decency and how their behavior can devolve into the criminal. More contemporary economic histories explained the riots as responses to hunger, as acts rooted simply and only in economic vulnerability and pain. Thompson believed that these were crass economic simplifications that failed to account for “the complexities of motive, behavior, and function.”3 The analytic framework of moral economy aimed to correct this oversimplification. He argued that the bread riots, like other eighteenth-century social protests by the poor, were rooted not simply in economic deprivation, but also in legitimation. By “legitimation” he meant that “the men and women in the crowd were informed by the belief that they were defending traditional rights and customs; and, in general, that they were supported by the wider consensus of the community.”4 So, while an economic perspective would argue that the food riots were engendered by scarcity and hunger, a moral economic analysis would explain the riots as at least partly rooted in a sense of betrayal of social norms and obligations by different groups of people who had the duty of caring for the public good, including millers, middlemen, bread makers, and policymakers. In contrast to his contemporaries, Thompson found a great deal of preparation and social craft in the organization of the riots. In a sense, Thompson implied that these riots were more like what we today call social movements and not simply the mindless actions of a criminal and hungry mob. Thompson’s historiographic imagination, which argued for the political wisdom, power, and agency of the poor, was an intellectual success. His concept of moral economy became a mainstay in social analysis in different disciplines. James Scott made it popular in anthropology with his study of Southeast Asia in the 1970s, and by using an analytic model of political resistance, Scott further energized the concept’s adoption across disciplines.5 As Didier Fassin argues, the many applications of the concept have produced a complex, wide, and varied set of theoretical and historical premises attached to moral economies.6 This is not the place to make sense of this huge amount of work. I will, however, refer to a narrower body of work that deals with “racial formations,” borrowing Omi and Winant’s (1986) powerful concept, as moral economies.7

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In its original formulation, a moral economy is not only or simply a type of moralizing that individuals use to justify violent actions. Thompson’s contribution to historiography and social analysis is not simply that protestation is more than a reaction to material and economic scarcity. It is also the activation of a definition of morality embedded in social relations, and, as such, his morality is not simply the by-product of transcendental principles, but the result of the rational and affective evaluation of social and economic transactions. Protestation is the result of knowledge and beliefs about traditional rights and their application. In a moral economy, one assesses past and present practices, past and present promises, past and present realities, and past and present expectations. That these evaluative assessments may show up in the moral and affective language of “this is our right” or “this is wrong” should take nothing from their rational ground. That the moral assessment may then feed affective structures that justify a demand for reparations should take nothing from these evaluations’ connections to traditional rights and their betrayal. That protestation takes violent or even criminal form should take nothing from recognizing their rational, affective, and moral basis. This is what I think in general of moral economies. Applying the concept to white nationalism invites me, invites us, to attend to white nationalism’s potential rationality. It also makes it harder to dismiss white nationalism as simply an atavistic attachment. There is a second lesson from Thompson that is perhaps less visible. As Fassin notes, Thompson was analyzing a transitional moment between traditional pre-market economies and market or capitalistic economies.8 Pre-market economies were constituted partly in terms of reciprocity and redistribution, and they were an extension of what society was and what society was doing. Market economies, on the other hand, regulate themselves and are in a sense independent from society. To the poor, hunger was the result of immoral thievery by the millers and the middlemen; to the rest, the astronomical price of bread was the result of market conditions, supply and demand, and the efficiencies and inefficiencies of production and distribution. This aspect of Thompson’s moral economy potentially narrows its application to historical events at the edge of transitions from pre-market to market economies. However, there are two reasons that justify the application of moral economies to other time periods. First, one must note that Thompson’s analytics have been tested in other processes of social transformation, and currently it is fair to argue that the central analytic tenets of moral economies can be found in a variety of social dynamics that involve the transformation of one social order to another.9

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Second, the transition from pre-market to market economies has never been complete, and it is possible to find multiple aspects of social and economic life governed by tradition. In fact, market economies have recreated some systems of obligation and redistribution, particularly thanks to the regulatory role of the state, as exemplified by the application and interpretation of welfare programs and some progressive taxation schemes. Systems of obligation and redistribution are not simply in the past, nor, one may add, are they all state imposed. Particularly relevant to this case are the ways in which pre-market logic shapes labor markets in terms of race and gender. This point is evident in hiring practices. Many studies have shown that in hiring processes, the extra-indexical information of names can determine who gets a “call-back.” Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan showed this in the context of race in the United States.10 They sent roughly 5,000 resumes with similar characteristics to respond to different job adds. Stereotypical white names like Emily Walsh and Greg Baker were assigned to half of those resumes. Stereotypical black names like Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones were assigned to the other half. White names got 50 percent more call-backs. Later, the researchers upped the credentials of another set of resumes and used the same logic of white and black names. White names with higher credentials got an extra 30 percent bump in call-backs, while black names got none. This means that even with higher credentials, black names yielded a power deficit, a distressing notion. Similar studies have proved the power of gendered names. Corinne MossRacusin, Christina Sanzari, and Helena Rabasco conducted a study in which faculty in STEM fields were asked to evaluate a curriculum vitae, and the same curriculum vitae was used with the only difference being that the bearer was either John or Jennifer.11 Even though STEM academic units in the United States face consistent pressure to achieve gender parity, “Jennifer” was less likely to be selected as a mentee or a lab researcher and, when given a position, was offered a smaller salary, roughly 13 percent less, than the fictional “John.” The general application of these hiring processes has produced deep inequalities in earning capacity across genders, as well as inequalities in unemployment due to race and ethnicity. Women continue to earn a fraction of what men earn for the same job. Black unemployment has been historically roughly twice as high as white unemployment, and Latino unemployment has traditionally been roughly 50 percent higher than white unemployment. Research has shown that people hire people who look like them, who act like them, who went to the same schools, and who speak like them. In other words, people

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often do not hire the best candidates; they hire the white, male candidates. This means that market efficiencies have been secondary to relations of reciprocity based on race and gender. It is not a stretch to argue that many white communities have experienced this segment of the economy as if it were a pre-market economy, and this experience has given way to moral expectations and affective structures based on traditional ideas of kinship. The famous white working class, which is often imagined as male and as the feeder class for white nationalism, is experiencing new challenges in the labor market, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, many are protesting what they perceive as a betrayal of the market economy. From my perspective, what these communities often protest is the weakening of a labor market based on relations of reciprocity. Not very long ago, one was born white and male in an industrial town and finished high school with the expectation of a decent job at the factory or the mill. This is the modern equivalent of a traditional right, something embedded in relations of reciprocity, something that one is owed because one is part of that particular racial and gender community. Fissures in this understanding of right, these racialized labor expectations, have always existed, but they grew bigger during the 1970s, and this increase is clearly exemplified by the famous Hard Hat Riots of the 1970s, when construction workers beat up antiwar protesters in Lower Manhattan. These blue-collar workers not only supported Nixon and Vietnam, but they also violently resisted racial integration. In 1976 sociologist E. E. LeMasters called them Blue-Collar Aristocrats, an apt name that called attention to, among other things, their eroding power and their struggles with the women’s movement and the civil rights movement. Things continued changing, not simply because labor markets were becoming more efficient and exploitive, but also because whole segments of the economy underlying these labor relations have been disintegrating in the last few decades. Contrariwise, historically, if you were born a woman, black, or Latino and you expected to have a job, you always assumed that you needed to clearly be a better candidate than others, and even then you may not get a job or get a fair salary. The expectations among these groups have been low, and so is their sense of betrayal. Or, if you prefer, the labor market has always betrayed women and nonwhite workers, and therefore this is what they expect. So, while it is worth attending to the way the transition from an industrial to a neoliberal labor economy materially affects everyone, in particular those without college degrees, it is also important to recognize that the same challenges may be experienced quite differently by different communities, and this difference may

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lead to radically different community responses. This is also an argument against relying only on political economic analyses of protestation, which may presume that protestation is an index of economic inequality. More unemployment or economic dispossession and stagnation would translate into more protest, and this is simply not the case. My point here is that the two lessons found in Thompson are quite relevant today, even if the context of our analysis is advanced capitalism. Yet, I repeat, Thompson did not analyze all elements pertinent to a moral economy, and some of these elements were left unattended because their historical significance was relatively minor. However, some of these minor elements have grown in importance and influence and constitute an ever-larger part of any explanatory framework of the present that aims to use the notion of moral economies. One of these elements that has grown in importance and complexity today is the manner in which belief and ideas about traditional rights are constituted. Thompson was writing about a time and a class of people that relied heavily on the oral transmission of belief and ideas about traditional rights. In the past, people talked to one another about the cost and quality of the bread. Most poor people, particularly in eighteenth-century rural England, were illiterate, and it is orality that partly explains the constitution, reproduction, and transmission of ideas about traditional rights, and, ergo, the way these rights were memorialized. But even Thompson recognizes that other communication mechanisms were at place in urban centers, places where conspiracy theories, demands, and allegations were often printed in early newspapers and handbills. And it is significant that the types of belief that were circulated orally and in print were different and legitimized different types of action. The urban crowd, while angry about the price and quality of bread, resorted to rowdy protestation and calls for prosecution of those inflating prices. In rural England, the poor rioted based on their experience and proximity to farming, to corn, and to wheat. They often acted as witnesses of, for instance, the removal of grain that was needed in their communities, and they protested and sometimes rioted. The presumption of spatial intimacy—that people are physically close to one another—is at the heart of Thompson’s arguments, and it has often underscored our understandings of moral economies since. This is particularly true when moral economy is applied to communities and relations of inequality, which accounts for the majority of applications. Those who experience inequality experience it together, and together they assess the past, the way inequality stems from a betrayal of their traditional rights, and together they protest.

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This presumption of relative spatial intimacy also presumes communication processes that are localized, such as news, or that are anchored on orality. But clearly our notions of space have been transformed by new communication technologies, and the question is: how have these transformations of space and media shaped the constitution of particular moral economies today?

WHITE NATIONALISM AS MORAL ECONOMY White nationalists, as a community, present key similarities with those who participated in the bread riots in eighteenth-century England, as well as crucial and puzzling dissimilarities that push me to reflect on the elements essential to an understanding of moral economies. Their protestation gives us clues to both. They help us understand how a discourse of deep angry resentment underscores their perspective on the world, and they help us see the centrality of new media technologies to the very formation of shared beliefs and interpretations of the world. Some of this connection is evident in their way of protesting, in, for instance, the chants “you will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us,” and their symbolic and violent actions. But other crucial elements of the structure of their beliefs can be found in the digital realms that they use to gather, websites like 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit. In addition to examining these sites, in what follows I also use documents, publications, and manifestos authored by white nationalists. White nationalists everywhere are commonly anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-immigrant, and often anti-women and anti-LGBTQ people. The mantra of “you will not replace us” is common across white nationalists around the Western world; to illustrate this point, Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white nationalist who committed the attacks on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, wrote an eighty-seven-page manifesto with the title “The Great Replacement.”12 In this document he outlines the reasons for his violence, which are not unique. They are lifted, almost verbatim, from the work of French intellectual Renaud Camus, who recently translated into English a summary of his work in French under the title “You will not replace us!” and whose interviews and public profile are crafted around these widely distributed ideas. Because its ideas are so common among white nationalists, I will briefly use this manifesto to make sense of their reasons for protesting the current state of affairs. The manifesto is a fairly decent synthesis of white nationalist sentiment around the world and explains, fairly clearly, the reasons for their protestation.

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It starts with the idea of demographic replacements, “It’s the birthrates,” emphatically repeated three times. It expands on demographic concerns around the developed world, about the fact that white populations practically everywhere are not reproducing to “replacement rates.” White populations are thus aging and shrinking. Yet the total populations of Western nations—Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—are not shrinking, and the reason is the immigration of people who are not white. Muslims, Tarrant argues, are transforming Europe, just as the alt-right would argue that Latino immigrants are transforming the United States. The manifesto continues with the idea of invasion and a siege: We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history. Millions of people pouring across our borders, legally. Invited by the state and corporate entities to replace the White people who have failed to reproduce, failed to create the cheap labour, new consumers and tax base that the corporations and states need to thrive. This crisis of mass immigration and sub-replacement fertility is an assault on the European people that, if not combated, will ultimately result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people (5).

The first section ends with the idea that this ethnic replacement, this cultural replacement, and this racial replacement are equal to white genocide. He argues that the solution is not simply to increase the fertility rates of whites. There is not enough time to correct the demographic change through birthrates. He states: “Thus, before we deal with the fertility rates, we must deal with both the invaders within our lands and the invaders that seek to enter our lands. We must crush immigration and deport those invaders already living on our soil. It is not just a matter of our prosperity, but the very survival of our people.” Demographic arguments, often paralleled by economic arguments, pave the way for calls for justice, laws, and rights, which give white nationalists a stand from which to utter the chant “blood and soil,” notoriously borrowed from Nazi Germany, that white nationalists have also embraced and chanted in my city alongside “you will not replace us.” The threat of displacement (“blood and soil”) and replacement indicates a siege on the white nation, which white nationalists equate with their racial stock, and this siege comes from Islam, migrants from Latin America, Jews, and the weak white elites, which include the intellectuals who embrace some form of cosmopolitanism.

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The siege mentality is key to white nationalistic claims, aspirations, and justifications, and it takes different discursive and media forms depending on the context. While Trump was campaigning, he began attacking California judge Gonzalo Curiel, the Mexican-American judge in charge of ruling over a lawsuit against Trump University, a scandalous and fraudulent institution of learning. As if on cue, Breitbart, the notorious digital magazine that Steve Bannon directed, ran a fake story about Judge Curiel arguing that he was organizing a group with the goal of returning whites to Europe and taking back California for Latinos. From Bannon’s discursive world comes a lie that informs, reproduces, and maintains the fantasy of “replacement” at the center of U.S.-based white nationalism. The siege is on. The siege argument also justifies criminal and violent forms of protestation. The second section of Tarrant’s manifesto is a Q&A in which he is asking himself the questions that others, including normies, would like to ask. “Why did you carry out the attack?” is one of the first ones. “To show the invaders that this is a white land,” he answers. In different sections of the manifesto, he also makes clear that it is to take revenge, to agitate, to incite violence, to retaliate, to create an atmosphere of fear among immigrants and nonwhites, even to radicalize debate on the Second Amendment here in the United States. It is clear that Tarrant, like Camus and like the alt-right here in the United States, is protesting the erosion or erasure of the traditional right to racially dominate. And it is easy to dismiss these protests as ideological readings of a reality they seem not to comprehend. Critics often argue that white nationalists are delusional people who seem not to understand their white privilege, their economic advantages, and the manner in which neoliberalism or corporatism is ruining their economic prospects. Whatever feeling of exploitation they may experience is not due to immigrants, but to neoliberalism and corporatism. We, the critics, wish they understood the real conditions of their existence. We wish they took off the blinders of racial ideology. But sometimes putting our wishes aside is necessary for understanding. First, we must recognize that although white nationalists tend to magnify the degree to which their privileges are being eroded, their concerns point toward a transforming reality. U.S. society is changing into one of deeper divisions between the wealthy and the poor or middle class, and into one in which the currency of whiteness, maleness, and heterosexuality is slowly losing value in a few important and highly visible social markets, including the intellectual field and the field of cultural production. Although the growing gap between

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the wealthy and the poor in the United States has been caused almost exclusively by neoliberal policies and state deregulation, the economic challenges that the gap creates are routinely explained by white nationalists and other conservative voices as the outcome of the erosion of white privilege caused by the success of leftist social movements, immigrants, Jewish people, and nonwhites in general. Debates on 4chan and 8chan, two imageboards that serve as the public space in which white nationalists around the world gather, lend evidence to my argument. In 4chan there is a section called Politically Incorrect that welcomes users who are radicalized either by white nationalism or by “incel” anti-women ideologies. Deep misogyny, racism, and xenophobia are the norm, and the established tone of conversations includes the shared belief in the supremacy of whiteness and maleness. There are discursive traditions in the imageboard that sustain this belief and that speak to their centrality. For instance, practically every day there is one conversation thread that starts with the idea of white genocide, and this thread invariably generates a lively discussion. And every day the imageboard is filled with derogatory images of women, including those of powerful political figures like Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Hillary Clinton. Almost as common are debates over economic issues. For instance, on March 14, 2019, 4chan featured a thread that sparked a lively debate on the economy and economic opportunities. The thread originator asked: “What’s wrong with working in an office, wearing a suit, working in a cool skyscraper?” The nature of the question revealed that the originator had the education and cultural capital to work in a white-collar job, and thus already suggested economic and educational privilege. He defined himself as a /pol/ack who was a frequent user of 4chan’s politically incorrect, most damning board. Responses were immediate and dismissive, even if a dialogue began. This conversation provides a glimpse of what some of these people think about the economy. Annoyedfrog argued that the jobs referenced by the originator are controlled by Jews, economic conservatives, liberals, or LGBTQ people who will use their work to then promote the death of the white race. The next comment shown read simply: “U.S. offices are literal slave camps though.” The tone was set, and the conversation stopped being a debate and continued as an opportunity to rearticulate the belief of erasure and replacement in the economic realm. While these posts cannot be read as evidence of what people actually do for a living, they show us a vision of the economy that is quite alienating to them. The thread originator asks the question whether their economic alienation is self-delusion, a clever question that perhaps really troubles the originator. But

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the answers are corrective and meant to reimpose the 4chan doxa, which runs deep and wide. The current global economy does not care for them as a class of people, and it is controlled by their national foes. Economic changes are not enough to explain white nationalist protestation. The sense of betrayal that they often manifest is not the by-product of a changing economic reality alone. We need to think about this: Given that the economic challenges are affecting everyone outside the 1 percent, why is this group protesting in these perplexing and sometimes violent ways? I think that their sense of betrayal is better explained as one rooted in the betrayal of what Charles Mills calls the Racial Contract. Mills argues that the  Racial Contract is the explicit type of social contract that binds societies like ours together. It is a contract based on the legal and social normalization of white supremacy, and it constitutes our political and moral realities, as well as our sense of history and factual reality. Mills reminds us that “all whites are beneficiaries of the Contract, though some whites are not signatories to it.”13 While the reception of Mills’s work was mired in controversy, to those of us looking at the constitution of racial and ethnic differences in society through the instrumentalization of law and policy, to those of us doing this type of work, his general position is defensible, even if particulars of his argument are weak or insufficient. The historical fact of white privilege points us to the existence of a racial contract. I think white nationalist protestation is partly the slow unraveling of this privilege, of this contract. White nationalists see evidence of this unraveling when they interact with some highly visible social markets such as the university system, Hollywood, and the news media, which they often argue are emblematic of their ethnoracial replacement. While, strictly speaking, the field of economic power remains staunchly white and male, white nationalists go to universities like the University of Southern California to be taught by a professor like me, a Mexican-American immigrant and an intellectual whose history lessons may sound to them like affronts, as challenges, and as accusations, even if I deliver them with care and empathy. Perhaps these young white heterosexual men turn on their screens and see the televisual empire of Shonda Rhimes, the sports and popularity of basketball player LeBron James, the success of Ellen DeGeneres, or the celebration of other Mexican voices like directors Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu as further evidence of their disenfranchisement. Right-wing media such as Fox News and fringe media such as Breitbart do the narrative and theoretical work of connecting these disparate dots and making the case that these young white men are indeed being replaced.

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But I believe there is one last and crucial reason for white nationalist protestation, one that further justifies my application of moral economies. One thing that is striking when you read 4chan posts, white nationalist pamphlets, and websites is the unease with which modernity is treated. This unease is manifested in the use of anachronistic historical references such as Nazism or Nordic mythology, but also in the nostalgic use of modalities of socialization preceding modernity, and the suspicion regarding modern forms of socialization and even objectification. Renaud Camus clearly illustrates this point when he states: “Replacement is the very essence of modernity that things are being replaced [by industry]. Objects are being replaced, landscapes are being replaced. Everything is being replaced. It is the very character of what it is to be alive today.” In a different interview he adds: “People are not just things. They come with their history, their culture, their language, with their looks, with their preferences.” Immigration hence is not rejuvenation, or economic invigoration. It is replacement. “The very essence of modernity is the fact that everything—and really everything—can be replaced by something else, which is absolutely monstrous.”14 Camus’s sophisticated critique of modernity can easily translate into a nostalgia for the premodern. Tarrant, the Christchurch killer, explains his radicalization as a response to the demographic genocide of the white race, but he theorizes this genocide in fascinating ways. He believes that a godless West, a secular West, is a society “with no core beliefs . . . a society of rampant nihilism, consumerism and individualism, where every individual is a competitor and the rights of the individual override all notions of responsibility. In this hell the individual is all and the race is worthless.”15 He claims he admires the invaders’ sense of faith, culture, and tradition, and when one puts together all the pieces of the heaven he envisions, one is left with tradition, stock, and kinship, the basis of the premodern and of the tribal. Thompson historicized protest among communities trapped in the middle of different historicities, different timescapes. The collision of pre-market moral economies with market, proto-capitalist economies created disjunctures that brought suffering to the poor but, most importantly, brought suffering that they were not socialized to accept. So, I wonder if the same is happening with white nationalists, whose experiences, ideologies, and reactions point toward realities and challenges they are not socialized to accept. Like the rioters in the eighteenth century, these individuals seemed to exist or wish to exist in different timescapes, in a different modernity than the one you and I share. In the white nationalist timescape, the racial contract is the basis of an understanding of traditional rights, and racial privilege is its central tenet.

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If I am right, then it is necessary to note and argue that these communities are not simply born in these different timescapes. They are born in the same modernity you and I inhabit, the secular, abstracting, modernity where we are all equal according to the law, and any of us can occupy the same legal location, regardless of our race or place of origin. If they were born among us, and they are no longer with us, how did they get there? How did they get to that timescape in which whiteness rules? I believe that there are social and cultural gateways to these timescapes that connect us to radically different modalities and possibilities of social life. Some of these gateways are intellectual, as in the work of Camus, but some are technological, if we are to pay attention to the centrality of Internet technologies in the constitution of a transnational white identity, which is at the center of white nationalists’ claims. To those of us who think about technology regularly, this is not surprising. We know that technology introduces new opportunities for socialization, new ways of constituting belief, and new epistemic systems that can support complex moral universes that compete with the secular, abstract, and disembodied system of modernity. This brings me to the last point I want to make. The idea of white nationalism is based on locality. They chanted in Charlottesville and chant everywhere, “blood and soil.” White nationalism is considered a form of nationalism. It is therefore deeply concerned with borders and with walls and with those crossing them. Yet white nationalists see themselves as belonging to transnational kinships. It is as if whiteness, not nation, was the most important characteristic of their radicalized identity. Tarrant is Australian, killed people in New Zealand, and justified his actions based on replacements happening in Europe and the United States. He is not that unusual; he is close to the norm, and I ask whether the emphasis on borders and white nationalist borderless identity is simply a contradiction or whether it is something more puzzling. My instinct tells me that this is not simply or only a contradiction but is perhaps an example of what Aida Hurtado referred to as multiple subjectivities.16 In 2005 Hurtado was theorizing the complex subject formation of Chicanas, their ambivalent connections to U.S., Native American, and Mexican societies, and their identities being shaped transnationally and discursively. But the concept of multiple subjectivities, I believe, can further illuminate contemporary ethno-racializations, including white nationalism. This is particularly true if we consider how new technologies give us the increasing possibility of existing in different timescapes, in communities that cross national borders, in systems of obligation rooted in different understandings of rights, and with affective

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structures constituted in the vacillation between the mobile individual and the borderless human, the bounded citizen, or the local ethnically rooted person. Like an increasing number of communities around the world, white nationalists exist in what Laurence Roulleau-Berger calls alterity regimes, spaces in which multiple subjectivities are the norm and from which protestation seems disconnected from the stable world that we claim as reality.17 NOTES 1. Hector Amaya, Citizenship Excess: Latinas/os, Media, and the Ethics of Nation (New York: New York University Press, 2013). 2. E. P. Thompson, “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 50 (1971): 76–136. 3. Thompson, “Moral Economy,” 79. 4. Thompson, “Moral Economy,” 78. 5. Bruce Berman and Stephen Larin, “Introduction: The Moral Economies of Ethnic and Nationalist Claims,” in The Moral Economies of Ethnic and Nationalist Claims, ed. Stephen Larin, Bruce Berman, and André Laliberté, 3–22 (Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press, 2016), 4. 6. Didier Fassin, “Moral Economies Revisited,” Annales, Histoire, Sciences Sociales 64, no. 6 (2009): 1237–66. 7. Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1980s (New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986). 8. Fassin, “Moral Economies Revisited.” 9. Berman and Larin, “Introduction,” 9. 10. Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination,” American Economic Review 94, no. 4 (2004): 991–1013. 11. Corinne Moss-Racusin, Christina Sanzari, and Helena Rabasco, “Gender Bias Produces Gender Gaps in Stem Engagement,” Sex Roles 79, nos. 11–12 (2018): 651–70. 12. Brenton Tarrant, “The Great Replacement.” Accessed September 2019, https://img-prod 13. Charles W. Mills, The Racial Contract (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), 11. 14. Renaud Camus, quoted by Thomas Chatterton Williams, “The French Origins of ‘You Will Not Replace Us,’ ” New Yorker, December 4, 2017, /2017/12/04/the-french-origins-of-you-will-not-replace-us. 15. Tarrant, “The Great Replacement,” 4. 16. Aida Hurtado, “Multiple Subjectivities: Chicanas and Cultural Citizenship,” in Women and Citizenship, ed. Marilyn Friedman, 111–29. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 17. Laurence Roulleau-Berger, “New Modernities, Spaces and Multiple Subjectivities of the Other,” Journal of Group Dynamics 30 (2013): 301–10.

New Technologies and the Moral Economy of White Nationalism  353  REFERENCES Amaya, Hector. 2013. Citizenship Excess: Latinas/os, Media, and the Ethics of Nation. New York: New York University. Berman, Bruce, and Stephen Larin. 2016. “Introduction: The Moral Economies of Ethnic and Nationalist Claims.” In The Moral Economies of Ethnic and Nationalist Claims, ed. Stephen Larin, Bruce Berman, and André Laliberté, 3–22. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press. Bertrand, Marianne, and Sendhil Mullainathan. 2004. “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” American Economic Review 94, no. 4: 991–1013. Fassin, Didier. 2009. “Moral Economies Revisited.” Annales, Histoire, Sciences Sociales 64, no. 6: 1237–66. Hurtado, Aida. 2005. “Multiple Subjectivities: Chicanas and Cultural Citizenship.” In Women and Citizenship, ed. Marilyn Friedman, 111–29. New York: Oxford University Press. Mills, Charles W. 1997. The Racial Contract. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Moss-Racusin, Corinne, Christina Sanzari, and Helena Rabasco. 2018. “Gender Bias Produces Gender Gaps in Stem Engagement.” Sex Roles 79, nos. 11–12: 651–70. Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. 1986. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1980s. New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Roulleau-Berger, Laurence. 2013. “New Modernities, Spaces and Multiple Subjectivities of the Other.” Journal of Group Dynamics 30: 301–10. Thompson, E. P. 1971. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century.” Past and Present 50: 76–136.

17 “The Only Way Out Is Through” Anthropology as Critical Praxis in Times of Crisis MU N I RA K HAY YAT


t was right after a weekend of the first serious protests in years against the current regime in Egypt that came to power in a military coup a few months before I began teaching at the American University in Cairo. It was the fall of 2019, and I had just returned from a year in Princeton, worlds away, and had assigned the students in my experimental ethnography class a writing exercise on “ethnographic surrealism.” Inspired by the article thus titled by James Clifford (1981), where he shines light on a potent moment in interwar Paris when surrealism and ethnography creatively cross-pollinated in the search for an expressive medium through which to critically reflect upon “a reality deeply in question” (542), I had sent my students back into their ordinary lives in the pulsing metropolis of Cairo to find experiences to shape into an ethnographic text using the surrealistic techniques of collage, bricolage, juxtapositions, and fragments. Over the weekend, fired up by a stream of compelling, bizarre, and ardently performed videos posted online by a disgruntled former actor turned contractor now calling out the Egyptian government’s corruption and inciting people to rise up, people took to the streets for the first time in years in cities across Egypt. Tahrir Square, which since the bitter end of the January 25, 2011, revolution in the June 30, 2013, coup had been transformed into a forbidding fortress of concrete barriers crawling with state surveillance and agents of control, came briefly alive again as scores sought to fill its symbolic spaces. It was a far cry from the masses of 2011, but not nothing, and more than had ever braved the streets since the Raba’a massacre, the inaugural event of the current regime, and the current political climate. This weekend of September 20, 2019, wavelengths of all kinds

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were frantically abuzz with the promise of another revolution. The fist of the state came down upon the wave. Protests were dispersed while plainclothes policemen searched people’s phones. More than 3,000 people were taken into state custody, including several prominent activists. Cairo was on edge. In my classroom, in the wake of the weekend’s excitement, its rippling effects, and subsequent decisive clampdown, a student read her assignment aloud: Sirens fill the air. We were winding across a wave of police cars, trucks and men in uniform. Every turn we take, we find people running in the opposite direction. “Turn around and go back! There are beatings ahead!” “Go back! Are you not afraid for yourself?” I had left my grandma’s house shortly after the end of the match, planning to pick up my best friend from a party nearby. The first thing I witness is a police truck violently wrestling men to the ground, dragging them from cafés, the men do not seem confused, almost disappointed, and more so angry. Their shouts reverberate off my skin and onto the next street. I quickly pace to my car. Not before I sneak up behind ‘am Ahmed el Sayes who is standing next to the commotion watching intently. I ask him what’s going on. He shortly responds “protests, get in the car and get out.” A woman’s scream bids me goodbye as she is grabbed from the collar; and ‘am Ahmed pushes me in the other direction and tells me to run. I am shaken. And my heart threatens to leave with the men who were taken. The streets were haphazardly colored in red and blue. Men in uniform heavily armed, with their faces covered, lining every corner. A family crosses the street amidst the chaos and into the juice shop, five meters away a police officer knocks a camera out of a man’s hand followed by the man himself. Streets are now randomly blocked. People gather in crowds only to be dispersed within minutes, knocked to the ground, beaten, arrested, in that order respectively. I pick up my best friend. The only way out is through the square. The traffic lights become obsolete. People were running in different directions. 20 men in suits march in front of us with another 50 behind them carrying police batons. Their fear was obvious and so was their intent. We had already reached a resolution that it would be important to film what our eyes were seeing. So that we would believe what we saw more so

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than anyone else. This country has a habit of making you doubt your own experiences. Later that night, every news report and article issued on the national level did exactly that. But we had the footage. The streets continued to be blocked, and I had to go back for my sister. She called me crying, frantically, narrating similar scenes to the one I had seen earlier. Driving, Nour and I had been spotted filming a mass arrest. Within seconds our car was surrounded, they were hitting the car with purposeful swings, the shouts arresting my heart. Fear squeezed my chest and I hit the accelerator, not caring if the two men carrying rifles and standing in front of the car would care to budge. Nour was crying. Nour doesn’t cry often. We were surrounded, and for a minute there it didn’t look like we could get out. Nour was hyperventilating; “we need to get out. We need to get out.” Her green eyeliner was intact, her nerves, however, were not. The entrance of the street to where my grandma’s house is and where the rest of my family is, was exactly where we had been surrounded. We had to take another route, an illegal one but it seemed like that night, the law had disappeared along with the many men that once sat at the streetside cafés. My sister is waiting for me at the entrance of the building. I tell her to get in the car, there is no time to lose, things seem to be getting worse by the moment. She looks at me, disbelief in her eyes. “That’s so rude, you’re not going upstairs to tell your aunt happy birthday?” I look at her. Mirroring her expression. I look at Nour. She mirrors my expression. Nour looks at Amina. Looks at me. “30 seconds, no more, be quick.” I go upstairs. I wish my aunt a happy birthday. My uncle ushers me aside, he’s speaking frantically. My phone is already buzzing, I know my time is up. My uncle urges me to stay. I leave, with my aunt and cousin in tow. They could not find an Uber to take them home. My aunt is already ranting, she had been a ceremonial elegy of the state. ItwasQatarItwasTurkeyThey’repaidprotestorsohtheycouldnotwaitfor himtoleavethenerveofthoseopportunistssuckingourcountrydryofhonorofdignity ofeverythingyoudontfindatthebackofyourcloset We pass by another wave of protests. They were only able to chant three times before police in civilian clothing rise up from the Ahwa [coffee shop] and beat, left, right, center. WhatdidIsaytheyrecivilianshittingciviliansthisisalljustforshowitoldyouwould youlookatthatitstheatertheyhadtospillbloodtomakeitbelieveable1

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In the classroom, we listen attentively. Ruffled brows, pursed mouths, troubled eyes. Silence. After a moment we react. We are struck by how the student’s experience of being caught up in the events unfolding in Tahrir that weekend presses in a tactile manner upon the writing and creates a visceral and surreal scene out of what “really” happened. We remark on the fortuitousness of the “ethnographic surrealism” assignment, the instinctive reaction of the student (an anthropology major) to throw herself in the thick of things, to document what her “eyes were seeing” as the action was effervescing all around her—as “evidence” (“so that we would believe what we saw more so than anyone else”) because “this country has a habit of making you doubt your own experiences”—and her adeptness at doing so (she was live-streaming it on Instagram as it was unfolding and was spotted by the police, who then accosted her but then she—luckily!—managed to get away). Her ethnographic fragment, written in the coursing adrenaline of the immediate aftermath, was an astonishing ethnographic document and political performance. Standing there amid a group of shaken and angry young people demanding validation and explanation, proffering (sur/realistic) ethnographic evidence in a grubby, neon-lit classroom at the American University in Cairo’s New Cairo campus, intentionally removed from the heart of the action (AUC’s old campus was in Tahrir square and relocated in 2009 to the Fifth Settlement, a new development in the middle of the desert and far from downtown Cairo), I was reminded once again just how much anthropology and ethnography matter, and what it means to teach such a discipline and its effective methods of observing and reporting as critical praxis to young people dwelling in a perpetual state of crisis. My students are citizens of a state at war with—among several other groups—its own youth, them, a state that insistently monopolizes the only possible interpretation of “reality,” a state that has few qualms about monolithically imposing its version of reality on the spaces and subjects of its power and domain. After a year in the faraway green pastures of an ivory tower, it felt both wrenching and good to be back where the classroom is connected to the political—the existential—by a live wire. Where nothing we read, teach, or discuss is removed from struggles being lived every day—even by those privileged enough to be studying in an elite institution of higher learning. Where anthropologists, as scholars of the world as lived, as documenters and archivists of its intimate, intricate vicissitudes, as students of the street, observers of flux, voices against oppression and imaginers of the otherwise, are turned to as resources and guides through difficult and dark times.

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Fassin (2013, 643) writes: Ethnography matters for contemporary societies. . . . This claim derives from the very activity of the ethnographer—a presence both involved and detached, inscribed in the instant and over time, allowing precise descriptions and multiple perspectives, thus providing a distinctive understanding of the world that deserves to be shared. Ethnography is particularly relevant in the understudied regions of society, but can be significant also in spaces saturated by consensual meanings: in the first case, it illuminates the unknown; in the second, it interrogates the obvious. To play its possible social role, ethnography must be simultaneously critical and public. . . . Admittedly, neither is univocal and both involve epistemological, ethical and practical complications. Yet the combination of critical and public perspectives can make a difference in the comprehension of major contemporary issues, provided that the outcomes of such issues are discussed, contested, and appropriated by various segments of society.

In conversation with Fassin’s quotation, this chapter reflects upon a heavy and heady time teaching and living anthropology in Cairo since 2013, and upon the important role that academics—in particular social scientists—have played in the popular revolution that has gripped Lebanon since October 2019. In Egypt since 2013, counter-revolutionary forces of repression have rearranged the possibilities of the political, throwing an ever-tightening noose around civil society: its actors, activities, and institutions. During this time, many (mostly from beyond these rarified circles, with the majority faceless and nameless) have been imprisoned, sentenced to death, tortured, killed, and disappeared. But activists, intellectuals, lawyers, and researchers have also not been spared. Institutions of higher learning can collaborate with or mimic state security by screening research, limiting expression, and reprimanding perceived transgressions. And yet, intellectual spaces of critical inquiry have bubbled up both within the university and outside it as something akin to a refuge, a haven, a safe house, a somewhat protected space of burning inquiry for those dispersed, dispossessed, and forcibly silenced by the totalitarian desire of a glowering state, where they can imagine otherwise. During Lebanon’s 2019 October Revolution, a new public burst into the world to challenge a corrupt and criminal political class that has held the state and its subjects in a sectarian-clientelist, neoliberal vise with widespread deleterious and

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toxic effects and drastically diminishing returns since the end of the Lebanese war (1975–1990) thirty years ago. This breathtakingly new mass movement transcended sectarian enclaves in an unprecedented manner and was marked by various civil society groups—feminist, environmentalist, leftist, secular—stepping into the “leaderless” space voided by a political class with only its own interests and enrichment to aggressively defend. Amid the creativity, revelry, and occasional confrontations and flare-ups in the streets and squares during this period, these “counterpublics” (Warner 2002) opened up irrepressible, participatory, exciting spaces of discussion in the occupied central areas of downtown Beirut, where teach-ins about the unprecedented new reality taking shape, and its now no-longer-entirely-imaginary possibilities, took place: in “the egg,” a bullet-riddled cinema left over from the civil war and not yet destroyed by Solidere (the real estate company founded by Rafik Hariri, the father of Saad Hariri, the prime minister, when protests erupted); in the blast wall–surrounded and usually off-limits garden outside the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) headquarters; in paid-for parking spaces for the rich inhabitants of this speculative investment ghost town of the glitzy Beirut Central District; and in front of smashed and graffiti-covered banks and storefronts, in and around Martyr’s Square. Here, I draw on my own experiences teaching anthropology in Egypt and on conversations with colleagues who have taught in and through revolutions in Egypt and Lebanon. I also include the voices of students, in particular those who came of age during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and who flocked to the revolutionary refuge of the social sciences, in particular anthropology in its aftermath. Anthropologists-as-activists, they came from all walks of life in the revolution’s briefly hopeful but all-too-soon violent and repressive aftermath. I have participated breathlessly, both at a remove and up close, in the Lebanese revolution that erupted as I was first drafting this chapter—and that has changed it from an account about only Egypt to an account about comparative revolutionary dreams and praxis and the active roles of academics—in particular anthropologists—in such popular, political becomings (even as they fail in the case of Egypt, as they continue to unevenly, uncertainly unfold or flounder in the case of Lebanon). I boarded the first plane back to Beirut and caught the effervescent, exuberant tail end of the first phase of the spontaneous protests that had spectacularly taken over most of Lebanon’s cities starting the night of October 17, 2019. In Lebanon, many of my close academic friends and their students played active

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roles in the revolution’s unfolding. Universities and schools went on strike for months; professors and students declared the streets to be the classroom. Banks closed to cosmetically stave off an imminent economic collapse. But the streets were claimed by the new revolutionary public—mostly young people, many women, many university students, but also many, many others, such as refugees and migrant workers, disenfranchised by a system that has exploited them, abused them, and neglected them for too long. New realities continue to emerge and to be negotiated as I write: the “revolution” is on hold even as the economic and sociopolitical situation continues to deteriorate and unravel in spectacularly disastrous ways. In this chapter, I want to say something about the urgent political and existential voids that come to be filled by the critical (and often subversive) acts of teaching and learning in times of crisis, especially when the crisis, as in Egypt, brings the very possibility of knowledge into question, and as in Lebanon, brings the possibility of new worlds into tantalizingly graspable reach. I want to explore how this is specific to the social sciences in a crisis-ridden but continuously creative and hopeful-despite-everything timespace in a Global South all but devastated by heavy-handed neoliberal ruling mafias and cartels, but to connect it too, to the critical world-making role that anthropologists (and other social scientists) can (and do) play in other crisis-ridden political worlds (such as Trump’s America). In what follows, I explore the role of social scientists, especially anthropologists, as critical witnesses to and active participants in these unfoldings, their ethnographic endeavors (scholars and students alike) as living documents and archives of these happenings, and their ideas as giving critical, compelling, and rigorous shape of worlds yet to come.

EGYPT: THE CLASSROOM AND THE MAKING OF WORLDS Teaching is somewhat undervalued in our profession despite it being, in many ways, among the most important things we do. The power and poeïsis of teaching, the activity that takes center stage—not to mention a whole lot of time and effort—in our daily lives as academics, are well known. And yet in terms of professional recognition and career advancement, teaching is barely given its due (apart from customer service–style evaluations) vis-à-vis the immovable pillar of publishing. Teaching is immediate, embodied, performative, affective, and effective; in critical times its political presence and radical potential come alive

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(Freire 2017; hooks 1994). In post-revolutionary Egypt, the classroom, as a continuum of the street as laboratory of political imagination where worlds are made, proliferated and bloomed. It was in early 2013, in the still semihopeful aftermath of the revolution where something still half-formed had taken shape and before the real start of the counter-revolutionary push that ended this brief era, that Reem Saad, a professor of anthropology at the American University in Cairo (AUC), received an email from someone unknown to her asking if she would like to introduce a group of interested young people to anthropology. Reem was intrigued by the provocation. And so along with Malak Rouchdy, a colleague in sociology, she agreed to meet this group of aspiring anthropologists in a ramshackle old building in a popular quarter in Cairo in a space called simply mesaha or “space” in Arabic. Reem writes: We met, at that moment, when the revolutionary spirit was still hopeful but rightfully worried and apprehensive of the future. These were the “good” days when we were standing on the brink of the abyss but we had not started sliding into it yet. There were feelings of danger, yet hope was distinctly present. Sitting in a room with . . . wooden simple chairs in a double circle, the twenty-something young people started to introduce themselves and . . . to each tell us why they thought they wanted to learn anthropology. They had questions for which they needed answers, and the resources around them did not offer them the possibility of addressing these questions. In reality, their questions could not have easy answers, neither in the available avenues of formal education . . . nor in the existing cultural venues to which they had access.  .  .  . Their questions revolved around their relationships as individuals with society at large, with the revolution, with the political scene, with authority, with God, and indeed with the cosmos; and there was a vague idea that anthropology would help them. (Rouchdy and Saad 2018, 246)

Anthropology is shaped around the radical recognition that worlds are things made and has the capacity, at least since the feminist and postcolonial turns, to speak truth to power. Anthropology thus seemed like the most compelling medium and archive with which to explore an unfinished revolution (Saad 2012). In Cairo, Reem reflects that anthropology emerged on people’s radar as political science—among other things—failed to provide any explanatory value to the events unfolding. I would add that the Egyptian Revolution and its counter-force

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deeply shook many established social and political orders and ideologies, such as Islamism and Pan-Arabism, that suddenly no longer held the explanatory purchase and political punch that they once did. “Anthropology rose, because it was the street,” Reem says. Although the group of young people that gathered in “the space” came from all kinds of backgrounds, they were propelled into this physical and metaphysical community by the revolution and new horizons of hope and worlds-promised that were created in the streets and squares yet which had nowhere practically to go in the present. It seemed that the best thing those young people could do right now with their awakening to new worlds and ways of being in them was to more rigorously contemplate the possibility and applicability of these worlds. “We believed in the important role social science could play at this juncture, and we thought that we could contribute in its transmission among the new generation that was shaping contemporary times,” writes Reem (Rouchdy and Saad 2018, 250). The gatherings, which continued to meet every other Tuesday evening, were dynamic in nature, and the themes of the sessions, the readings, and discussions emerged organically out of the political moments being lived. Theory addressed quandaries faced by participants, many of whom were active in various projects and initiatives seeking in various ways to reshape their world. Reem writes: For example, a group . . . was working on an informal experiment in “local governments” in low-income Cairo neighborhoods. They were concerned about the role of the state in society, more particularly, [they wanted] to know how they could perform functions and roles that are normally conducted by the state and questions such as: how to organize bread distribution, how to manage street cleaning, and how to create specialized local groups that could organize . . . everyday life, all these questions were on the agenda. (Rouchdy and Saad 2018, 249)

The group continued to meet through the military coup on June 30, 2013, that brought the current regime to power and through the days of pushback from the people that culminated in the Raba’a massacre on August 14, 2013, and the subsequent crackdown on all perceived enemies of the state. There was a visceral connection between the street and the classroom. “We would pose questions that emerged out of the events that unfolded between meetings and put the readings back in the context of the events—the readings and the events resonated,” said Reem. The group grew, and as the days grew darker, it became clear that the group needed to be more careful. Group members decided to

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rename and rehome the group to nahda (“awakening”), a Jesuit space, where Father William, a follower of Paulo Freire, wholeheartedly welcomed them. It was a necessary move but one, according to Reem, that interrupted somewhat the charged and fluid connection of the outside to the inside, shifting the dynamics of the meetings to be more structured and seminar-like in nature. The Free Social Science Knowledge Circle, which was renamed seket maarif or “Path of Knowledges,” still meets. It is not the only one of its kind, nor the only format of such off-ramp learning ventures that emerged at this time, another being CILAS, the Cairo Institute for the Liberal Arts and Sciences that was founded in 2013. CILAS founder Karim Yassin Gossinger describes his venture, which attracted a student body without many resources searching for a stepping stone to an affordable liberal arts education and answers to burning questions, as a “pigeon tower”2 to highlight its humble, homegrown, decentered characteristics, in distinct counterpoint to the ivory tower of institutionalized imported and most often imperial (in the Global South) academia. Amina was among those who participated in these groups and came to anthropology by way of the revolution. Her extended family were members of the defeated Muslim Brotherhood, and her experience of the revolution and especially the counter-revolution in which the state cracked down harshly on the Brotherhood, was shattering in ways both political and personal. Anthropology helped her piece her world back together. Speaking to me from North America, where she is now a PhD student, she said to me: There was an urgent need to figure out the present. I was shaped by the Revolution. I was 18, at a public university and in a program I didn’t care for, so I went to every demonstration, every event, even ones I didn’t support, just to watch. I was just opening my eyes to the world and beginning to think on my own. The Revolution made me into a witness and carried me into reading groups and through those groups into the social sciences. Our English wasn’t great, we weren’t academics, but we wanted to understand. We would read and then sit and talk and try to understand our new world.

There was a significant circulation of students across these spaces of learning, including AUC, despite the fact that in 2009 the university was physically removed far away from the heart of the city and its politics and social effervescence in Tahrir Square to the middle of the real estate speculative development of New Cairo—literally in the middle of the desert— preempting the events of the revolution that unfolded all around its former

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campus, especially Mohammed Mahmoud Street, which became iconic with its graffiti-covered walls. I entered the Egyptian scene at first as an outsider, but I soon found my footing, being no stranger to life in politically effervescent places. My courses at the university, especially those on gender and violence, attracted a critical mass of students seeking answers to pressing questions. I would gather with students in reading groups in various living rooms to debate the latest theories and think through the fraught realities we were all living. The social sciences were abuzz with existential inquiry. In Cairo, where crushing modalities of power are naturalized and inhabited as ordinary, a discipline that specializes in denaturalizing the shapes that power makes and takes is a potent thing. Teaching during this period was an overwhelmingly charged practice, with students reacting viscerally to ideas that suddenly made painfully clear their subjectivity, positionality, and complicity—and their very real political potential in the present. In the wake of the counter-revolutionary crackdown, my courses attracted students who felt (and were) most disenfranchised by the system, bringing into the space of critique the unexpected mix of queer and Islamist youth, some of who defiantly embodied and sometimes combined these marked forms of resistance. My course on violence was almost too close to home. There was not a theory or a theme or ethnography discussed in the classroom that did not resonate (sometimes a bit unsettlingly) with experienced dimensions of the darkness pressing in all around. Many students considered the course on violence to be life-changing. I did too. It brought home to me again and again the critical importance of what we academics, social scientists, especially anthropologists can do—especially in times of crisis.

LEBANON: THE STREET AS CLASSROOM A month after the brief current of unrest rippled across Egypt and was stifled, protests erupted overnight in Lebanon that snowballed into what is now called Lebanon’s “October Revolution.” Sparked by the Lebanese parliament’s approval of a plan to plug the gaping public debt (that has been feeding the political class and impoverishing the citizenry since the end of the civil war in 1990) by taxing WhatsApp calls, people took to the streets to express their outrage by burning tires and cutting off roads in the capital Beirut and across the country. The WhatsApp tax was but a trigger for anger at years of deteriorating living conditions in Lebanon for more and more people while the political class

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continued to enrich themselves and remain ensconced as the billionaire overlords of their respective sectarian fiefdoms. But this time, for a change, class momentarily trumped sect in Lebanon as people joined forces in the streets that night demanding reform and occupying the center of Beirut, a space heavily invested in the corrupt neoliberal order that the people were finally uniting and rallying against. The protests spread across the country and turned into mass spectacles of both anger and celebration as Lebanese citizens realized a collective movement that had proven difficult to realize in years past. Those on the streets were a new generation smarting under the yoke of the ancien regime of sectarian, patriarchal (Joseph 1999) cartels that had been in place for generations, ruling the land and fleecing the citizenry. In recent years there had been sporadic attempts to challenge the out-of-control pollution, the rampant corruption, the extortionate cost of living, the grinding lack of jobs, and the lack of water, electricity, schooling, and health care, most saliently in the shortlived “You Stink!” uprisings of 2015. This time, though, many felt that something new was happening, enabling a new public to form around desperate, urgent demands for the very basics of a decent life and an entirely new political system: “killon yaani killon! everyone means everyone!” is the chant that took over the seas of people and has become a slogan for what is being hopefully referred to as a thawra or revolution. The people do not want to let any sectarian leader in government (many of whom are former warlords “forgiven” by the general amnesty after the civil war) off the hook. People started to hopefully say: “the civil war has finally ended.” In the few weeks after the first night that the protests erupted on October 17, civil society groups came together to organize gatherings and marches, to move events forward, and to think together with the cascade of events unfolding all around. Professors from across Lebanon’s universities joined the general strike and created various forums and teach-ins that were attended in the occupied spaces of the downtown area of Beirut but also in cities across Lebanon. Academics, largely from the social sciences and many already active in municipal politics and in feminist, environmental, and union activism, held public talks on themes pertinent to the moment, such as electoral reform, participatory governance and what that could look like in Lebanon, the environmental disaster currently ravaging Lebanon, the role of women in politics, and a postsectarian political realm. In the squares and public gardens of the major cities across the country, people gathered to debate, discuss, plot, and plan as the revolution gathered steam. Many of those gatherings included academics, people involved in public life, and anyone interested and invested in pushing forward with

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change. Discussions bubbled out of the tents set up in the occupied squares of the main cities, tents and discussions that were eventually forcibly dispersed by the state—and then Covid-19 hit. Right now the revolution is on hold as the political class, systemic corruption, and collapsing economy that triggered the uprising remain. Anthropologist Ghassan Hage, who happened to be in Beirut as the revolution erupted, stepped into the anthropologist-cum-revolutionary role and gave a talk entitled “Academia in the Revolution” that was advertised on social media and took place on October 27 in a blast wall–encircled garden facing the normally heavily securitized and policed ESCWA headquarters in Riad el-Solh Square in the center of Beirut, where the protests centered. There, to a gathering of scholars and students, Hage shared his thoughts on “academia and uprisings, academia and revolutions and the encounter between the two.” He noted to those gathered that academic work and revolutionary work have a long history, but that “there is a long history to the fantasy of the revolutionary thinker, a fantasy that is thankfully dying down.” Hage urged academics to ditch “the imaginary of the grand revolutionary thinker and think themselves as professionals with a capacity to perform a certain form of labor systematically and rigorously.” This labor is key, and it takes place mostly away from the spotlight. It is the labor of teaching and learning and the labor of connecting, as surrealist artists or bricoleurs, our thoughts and the world. Indeed, this is what I have explored in this chapter. Didier Fassin in his article “Why Ethnography Matters: On Anthropology and Its Publics” (2013), examines the ways in which ethnography intervenes in political debates, in the making of worlds. “Opening ethnography to a wider audience without losing its refinements and complications was thus a delicate task,” he writes. “It implied associating stories with analytical developments and linking theory with empirical materials. . . . It is presumed that such a conversation between the ethnographer and his or her publics generates a circulation of knowledge, reflection, and action likely to contribute to a transformation of the way the world is represented and experienced” (Fassin 2013, 628).

ANTHROPOLOGY AS REFUGE In the Anthropocene, where many in the Global North are beginning to feel the sharp edge of existential panic around the end of livable worlds, endings that shape the daily grind and everyday struggles for those in the Global South, a new

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appreciation for refuges (but sadly not for refugees) arises. Refuges are necessary spaces in catastrophic times, and they come in many shapes and possibilities. Anthropology (and its closest sibling in the social sciences, sociology) became a refuge for the “orphans” of the 2011 revolution in Egypt. In Amina’s words to me: We were awakened by the Revolution and orphaned by the coup and we turned to anthropology for answers. There was little that separated my political dreams and the ideas and emotions I encountered in classes. In my first year studying for my masters [in anthropology at AUC] I would often burst into tears right in the middle of class at the intensity of the ideas coursing through me and giving voice to, avowing my revolutionary experience. In those classes I discovered a community of support. Reading theory with those seeking answers like me, helped me make something out of the reality I was living—to engage it productively, to grasp it, inhabit it. Anthropology taught me how to know that which cannot be or does not want to be known— something so important in our world. Ethnography and ethnographic fieldwork were very empowering and brought me into the world—they put me in it and taught me about it. One of the most powerful things I heard in the anthropology classroom was: “Those we are unable to overcome, we study!” Knowledge is power.

On a practical level, the ability of the security state to track its critics is somewhat attenuated in the realm of academic discourse, and thus anthropology and its sister social sciences shield social critics who speak at that register with a protective cloak of indecipherability vis-à-vis a watching and listening state. Ali, a sociologist and aspiring public intellectual, gave a series of avidly attended public talks in Cairo and Alexandria, engaging with themes relevant to and critical of the counter-revolutionary order. Engaging with the texts of Hannah Arendt and others and around themes that one would expect would raise an eyebrow or two, Ali surprisingly was never identified as problematic and largely left alone, although agents attended many of his talks. “They would see the title and show up, but I consciously kept my discourse at a theoretical remove and thus although I was able to reach my audience and engage them, the intelligence agent in attendance would soon lose the thread and interest,” he told me. Similarly, Reem sees the work of anthropology as taking place at the “mezzo” level of political participation: away from too much visibility but critically connecting flows of knowledge and the constant flurry of political events.

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ANTHROPOLOGIST AS REVOLUTIONARY The “mezzo” is an important zone. It is a liminal zone, a threshold, a barzakh, a space of becoming that is not yet ensnared by regulatory frameworks or captured by systems of governance. And thus it thrives in times of crisis, as critique. Anthropology is a method of inquiry that takes up philosophical questions bound up in the ethnographic reality of lived worlds. As such it is a generative space to dream up new worlds and praxis for revolutionary times. As Raewyn Connell (2019) points out, “A good deal of social analysis comes from radical social movements—labor movements, feminism, gay liberation, landless people’s movements, movements of subordinated castes or ethnic groups, nationalist movements, anticolonial movements,” and indeed ideally, it should continue to do so. Revolutions are moments of crisis that propel the anthropologist—and other social scientists—to step into an active role. Revolutions are also prime opportunities to bring our disciplines, which have become institutionalized, commoditized, and disconnected from reality, back into critical social relevance. As Reem writes about her role as anthropologist in the revolutionary and post-revolutionary moment in Egypt, “In many ways, we consider ourselves part of a trend of academics, which seeks to transmit a type of social science that is engaged with current political and social processes, and is in constant conversation with the emerging young social actors. This is a trend that distinguishes itself from the mainstream social science that is put at the service of the establishment” (Rouchdy and Saad 2018, 250). Rima Majed is a sociologist teaching at the American University of Beirut who studies social movements. A feminist, leftist, and activist, she, like many of her colleagues, participated in the protests and the occupation of the squares in Beirut, organizing teach-ins, discussions, and marches. Reflecting on this moment (which may have passed), she said to me: In the humanities and the social sciences we either are scholar-activists or we aren’t scholars. I don’t see our fields as “science”—it’s one thing to understand the world and it’s another thing to transform it, but those two things are related in my understanding. Even producing knowledge and engaging in these debates, opening up spaces where we talk about the possibility of imagining different worlds is in itself a political project and a form of activism that is also scholarly. I don’t think we need to have a clear distinction between where does your scholarly profile stop and where does your activist profile begin.

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Those of us invested in the socially transformative nature of scholarship and in revolutions must keep the revolutionary potential of anthropology and kindred disciplines in the social sciences and humanities within our intentional grasp. In such existentially unstable worlds, those of us who are trained to ethnographically attend to the detail and flux of everyday life and its politics have everything to offer. NOTES 1. This is reprinted with permission of the student, who will remain anonymous. 2. Pigeon towers are a common sight across the Egyptian landscape as keeping pigeons is a widely popular pastime.

REFERENCES Clifford, James. 1981. “On Ethnographic Surrealism.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 23, no. 4: 539–64. Connell, Raewyn. 2019. “Canons and Colonies: The Global Trajectory of Sociology.” Estudos Históricos [Rio de Janeiro] 32, no. 67: 349–67. Fassin, Didier. 2013. “Why Ethnography Matters: On Anthropology and Its Publics.” Cultural Anthropology 28, no. 4: 621–46. Freire, Paulo. 2017. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin. hooks, bell. 1994. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge. Joseph, Suad. 1999. “Descent of the Nation: Kinship and Citizenship in Lebanon.” Citizenship Studies 3, no. 3: 295–318. Rouchdy, Malak, and Reem Saad. 2018. “Beyond the University Gates: The Story of the Free Social Science Knowledge Circle.” In Mélanges offerts à Madiha Doss: La linguistique comme engagement, ed. Aziza Boucherit, Heba Machhour, and Malak Rouchdy, 245–52. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale. Saad, Reem. 2012. “The Egyptian Revolution: A Triumph of Poetry.” American Ethnologist 39, no. 1: 63–66. Warner, Michael. 2002. “Publics and Counterpublics.” Public Culture 14, no. 1: 49–90.

18 Social Movements and Social Theory MI C HA E L WAL Z E R

I There are many ways to classify social movements: by political direction (left, right); by cause (the right to vote, the eight-hour day); by geography (local, countrywide, international); or by chronology (when was the first one?). I am interested here in a simple two-part classification. In some movements, the protagonists are acting in their own interests; they are their own cause. In others, the protagonists are acting in support of people they don’t know or for some distant cause. The labor movements of the 1880s and the 1930s (in the United States) and the civil rights movement of the 1960s illustrate the first type. The anti–Vietnam War movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and the current campaign to boycott Israeli institutions (the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions [BDS] movement) will serve to illustrate the second. I should note that the two types are regularly joined (but not merged)—as when the black students sitting in at Woolworth lunch counters in North Carolina in 1960 inspired the Northern Support Movement that organized the picketing of Woolworth stores in cities like Boston and New York. The southerners were entirely black, acting for themselves, demanding equal treatment; the northerners were mostly white, acting, they would have said, for the others or for the cause of racial justice (Walzer 1970; for a general account, see Turner 2010). The same twofold classification holds if we consider social movements as responses to social crises. In the first case, the movement is a response to a

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crisis in the lives of the participants, though that crisis may be long-standing, as it certainly was in the case of the industrial working class (think of the years between Engels’s 1844 report on the misery of factory workers in Manchester and the appearance of a strong labor movement in Britain). When does oppression in any of its forms—exploitation, discrimination, subordination, humiliation—produce an organized response? What makes an everyday crisis “movementable”? One answer to this question is the appearance of a theory that explains the crisis, criticizes the injustice, and points the way to an organized response. For obvious reasons, this is an answer endorsed by many theorists (the Frankfurt School is the best example of a group of social theorists who believe in the unity of theory and practice—and in the value of theory to practice). I am going to assume that this answer is at least partly right. Only when there is a movement of this first sort, where people are responding to their immediate circumstances, can there be a movement of the second sort, where people are responding to circumstances not their own. Now the crisis is a political struggle already in progress, perhaps at a critical stage, that gives rise to a secondary movement of solidarity, or the crisis is a war that leads people watching from a distance to rally in support of one side. There are protagonists fighting politically or militarily for their lives, their liberty, or their well-being, and there are sympathizers far from the actual fighting who want to help. The two groups are connected but not necessarily similar in their political commitments. The question that I will try to answer in this chapter has to do with the theories and ideologies that drive or shape the two different kinds of movements. Specifically, and less impersonally: what is the role of theorists, intellectuals, and “professional” militants in these movements? How do people like them stand in relation to men and women acting on their own behalf or out of sympathy for others? I was a supporter of and an activist in several of the movements discussed in this chapter and an active opponent of one of them. I participated in much of the leftist infighting of the 1960s and early 1970s and, more intermittently, in the politics that came after. I will write some of the time as an eyewitness, without the usual academic apparatus, and some of the time more conventionally, as an observer and student. Throughout I will alert readers to the standard academic accounts of the movements I discuss and cite sources whenever I think external confirmation is necessary.

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II Consider the classic case of Marxism and the labor movement. Here is where my question was first asked and where all the possible answers were first canvassed. Marxism is the original social theory; at least, its authors and their epigones were the first people who thought of themselves as social theorists. They were also the first theorists who believed in the unity of theory and practice; they intended to create a social movement. And they believed that this movement would consist of people acting in collective self-interest (the workers) and of people like themselves (bourgeois intellectuals) promoting and supporting the action from a distance—or, better, from close up. It is certainly possible to imagine the labor movement without Marxist theory. But perhaps, without the theory, it would have been more like a medieval jacquerie or a modern “wildcat” strike—spontaneous, unorganized, and unsustainable: an uprising without the capacity to move forward. It seems plausible that the theory made for coherence and structure; it gave the early laborites a sense of their place in history and a reason to believe in their possible or, since Marxism was a “science,” their certain success. It also provided leaders, that is, movement militants who could speak and write theoretically and explain to ordinary workers what needed to be done. The workers, of course, have their own reasons for acting, but these are most often expressed in complaint and anger—reasons for acting that don’t necessarily produce collective action. Marxist theory mobilizes complaint and anger and sets their protagonists moving. Some workers and some outsiders are inspired by Marxism, and they become the first organizers of the movement. They are helped, always, by workers who are uninterested in social theory or ideology but who know the hardship and recognize the injustice of their condition and discover in themselves a talent for acting and organizing. These latter people may do a lot of the work of the movement (I will come back to them later), while the theorists make the speeches. But while philosophy, it’s been said, makes nothing happen, social theory can make things happen. At least in the early stages of the movement, speeches (and writing: leaflets and pamphlets) are important. The unity of theory and practice is manifest in the cooperation of theoretically inspired activists with activists who have only material and moral but no theoretical interests. Regularly, over time, this unity comes undone. In the case I know best, workers in the steel industry in Johnstown, Pennsylvania (my hometown, a smaller Pittsburgh), were organized by socialist and communist militants coming from outside (for the Johnstown story, I rely on

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Bernstein 1970, 490–94, 728; Metzgar 2000, chap. 1; and also Morawska 1985 and 1996, 200–1, 223–24). The years of organizing stretched from 1937, when the first major strike was broken, to 1941, when the steelworker’s union won a National Labor Relations Board election by a 4–1 margin. The outside organizers worked for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO); they were professionals, and they traveled from one organizing opportunity or trouble spot to another. So they were always outsiders. The workers stayed where they were, lived where they lived. They hadn’t read the Manifesto or Das Kapital; they were neither socialists nor communists; they were on their way to becoming loyal union members and Democratic voters. Lenin’s distinction between trade union consciousness and socialist or revolutionary consciousness has its origin in cases like this one (Lenin 1902). The militants represented, or thought they did, the coming social and political revolution; they understood unionization as a moment in the ongoing class struggle, a step on the road to proletarian triumph. The workers wanted a strong union to raise their wages, improve their working conditions, and free them from the steel company’s tyrannical rule. It is the workers who won out in the end. The movement was theirs, and their activism declined as their interests were served. They fought and won, and after that they preferred trade union officials to revolutionary ideologists. The next generation inherited the union and didn’t have to fight for it. But something more should be said about the men and women in Johnstown who responded to the outside organizers, created the union, and, some of them, became the first officials of its local branch. In those years people previously passive and inarticulate, who never imagined themselves as political agents, began to speak out and to act. They organized meetings and stood up at the meetings to complain about working conditions in the mills and about the hardships endured by steelworker families. They expressed, I would guess, a commonsense version of the labor theory of value, clearly stated in the union song “Solidarity Forever,” written by Ralph Chaplin and first sung in 1915: It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade; Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid; Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made. . . .

Or, more specifically: we created the wealth of the Bethlehem Steel Company, and we deserve a fair share of that wealth.

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Aiming at their fair share, the workers began to ask and answer the classic political question: What ought to be done? They wrote leaflets, walked the picket lines, negotiated with the police, confronted the company’s scabs and vigilantes, encouraged one another, and argued with friends and neighbors who held back. They changed the lives of Johnstown workers—their own lives. Unionization was indeed a kind of collective self-help. Some of the changes were material: suddenly steelworkers had a little money; they became consumers. Some of the changes involved what we might think of as the politics of every day: the tyranny of the factory floor was overthrown; the foreman was no longer a master; and all the civil servants in the city were suddenly civil, more accessible, and more friendly than they had ever been before. It wasn’t a revolution; Johnstown did not become an egalitarian society. But its inequalities were significantly reduced; there was less deference on one side, less arrogance on the other. The city became a better place. That achievement is often undervalued by theorists of socialism and revolution and forgotten by later generations of workers. But the effort it took and the way ordinary men and women rose to the occasion may be the most important thing for us to think about. No doubt, the militants and organizers acted with great courage; they were the first to face police and vigilante violence. But they came and went; the workers stayed and built the union; they are the real heroes of the labor movement. There were still big strikes to come, in 1951 and 1959. But the scope of the change had been set. Johnstown became a union town and a Democratic Party stronghold, and there was no ongoing politics to the left of the Democrats. The socialist and communist militants were at once successful and disappointed. Worker solidarity and the “fair share” argument were all that the union needed to sustain the later strikes.

III Selig Perlman’s neglected classic, A Theory of the Labor Movement, explains the success of the workers in places like Johnstown and also the disappointment of the militants (Perlman 1928). His theory can be briefly summarized. When the working class is strong, numerically large, geographically concentrated, urban in its lifestyles, and (relatively) free to organize, it will produce an “organic” labor movement. That means a movement led (or one that will eventually be led) from within, by workers who have come forward in the course of the unionization

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struggle. Intellectual militants and organizers will be active and helpful, and some of them may end up as union officials, working in the national office. But they will be the servants, so to speak, of the working class. The stronger the unions they help to build, the clearer their subordination will become. By contrast, when the working class is weak, few in numbers, recently recruited from the countryside, and repressed by the state, the movement will be “inorganic” in character, led from the outside by a vanguard of bourgeois intellectuals and militants. Perlman, who was writing in 1925–1926, took Lenin’s Russia as his example; Samuel Gompers’s American Federation of Labor (AFL) was his example of an “organic” movement (though he was critical of its failure to organize industrial workers). If the workers take the lead, the movement will aim at the control of opportunities and jobs, as the AFL did. It will be guided by a predominantly economic (trade union) consciousness. If the vanguard takes the lead, it will aim at control of the means of production and the state. It will be guided by a predominantly political (revolutionary) consciousness. Unions defend the actual interests of actual workers. Vanguard parties, like the Bolsheviks, tend to view the workers as an abstract mass with a world-historical mission: “to hurl itself against the capitalist social order and demolish it” (Perlman 1928, 9). Perlman is a critic of the intellectual militants with their revolutionary theories, but he recognizes that they can play an important part in the development of the labor movement. So long as they have “a light touch” and avoid intellectual arrogance, they can endow the movement “with an attractiveness that only specialists in thinking in general concepts and inventing ‘blessed’ words . . . are capable of” (Perlman 1928, 318). But this is a role with a beginning and an end. The success of the “specialists” as agitators and organizers means the end of any leadership role. The men and women they have organized take over, and revolutionary idealism is replaced by trade union consciousness. We can call this the democratic outcome. The workers become competent and confident; they make sure that they receive the respect they deserve and that their interests are served. The militants can only rule if that doesn’t happen, and then the way is open to vanguard presumption and revolutionary dictatorship.

IV Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? the pamphlet in which he distinguishes trade union and revolutionary consciousness, dates from 1902; Perlman’s adaptation of the dichotomy was worked out in the mid-1920s. Between those dates, in 1919,

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Max Weber wrote “Politics as a Vocation”; he was responding to political events similar to those that provoked Lenin’s and Perlman’s writing—in his case, the politics of the German left in the immediate aftermath of the First World War— and he produced a parallel dichotomy. Politicians, he wrote, acted out of an “ethic of ultimate ends” or an “ethic of responsibility” (Weber 1919, 120–21). The two ethics sit nicely alongside Lenin’s and Perlman’s analytical terms. Revolution is indeed an ultimate end, and trade unionism is responsive to the immediate needs of the working class. The terms are similar; the three men, not so. Lenin was committed to an ethic of ultimate ends and Perlman argued for an ethic of responsibility, while Weber believed that a truly great leader would, at critical moments, live by the two together. I suspect that more ordinary political activists also sometimes span the dichotomy. The CIO organizers recruited from left parties and sects certainly had ultimate ends; unionization, as I’ve said, was only a moment on the road to revolution. Still, many of them worked responsibly for the union’s success; they were loyal to the workers even if they felt themselves possessed of a higher consciousness. And among the union workers, there were important disagreements about tactics and strategy, reflected in the way they voted on the early contracts. The steel company was still very powerful, and the union’s negotiators (“responsibly,” they would have said) compromised on worker demands, promising to fight again the next time around. Some workers voted against the contract; no compromises were acceptable to them; theirs was a more “ultimate” politics. Nonetheless, revolutionaries and trade unionists are indeed different, and similar differences play out again and again in the history of social movements. I will continue to write about the two groups as if they are distinct, even though individual men and women rarely conform to the ideal types.

V Now consider the role of these groups in a movement for a distant cause— against the Vietnam War or, as we participants would have said, in support of the Vietnamese people (for a general account, see Garfinkle 1995). Most of the participants were moved by a mixture of sympathy and outrage: sympathy for the victims of America’s war (the burning villages, the free-fire zones, the civilian deaths) and outrage that the war was America’s, that our country was fighting so brutally. But, again, many of the militants and organizers were differently

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engaged; they were moved by one or another version of left ideology. You could tell the ruling version by looking at the leaflets distributed at antiwar rallies: one mimeographed sheet, with text on both sides, and about halfway down the second side, you would (usually, not always) find Lenin’s theory of imperialism. The great majority of the men and women who marched and demonstrated against the war had never read Lenin, and the few of us who had were not sympathetic. These activists were inspired by journalistic accounts of the fighting (accounts that were far more realistic and critical than anything written about, say, the Korean War) and by the unprecedented coverage of the war on television. Many were newly engaged, without prior political experience, and they were engaged for this occasion only, not for the long struggle against imperialism. All of us had strong opinions, strong feelings about the war, but no material interest in its outcome. Avoiding the army was no doubt a material interest, but most of the university students involved in the antiwar movement were exempt from the draft (another reason to criticize the war, though not one of the reasons driving the movement). Even the young men who fled to Canada were not so much dodging the draft or protesting its unfairness as they were refusing to fight in a war they believed to be unjust. We expected that the unjust war would one day end, and everyone would go (or come) home. In this case, I think, it was the theoretically or ideologically driven militants who carried the day; at least, they played the larger part in defining the movement in its critical years. The Vietcong flags carried at antiwar demonstrations were one sign of this. The militants imagined themselves allied with people like themselves in Vietnam: good Leninists who were leading the fight for national liberation over there and who needed the support of counterparts here. Most of the rest of us, by contrast, imagined ourselve