Wednesday, February 11, 2015

On #jesuischarlie and #muslimlivesmatter

Vigil at University of Michigan.
The following are short, fragmented interventions on some of the conversations about #CharlieHebdo and #muslimlivesmatter. They were written like ruptures as information was published and I posted them on my Facebook profile. Some are my words, others are not.


"But this [narrative of clash of civilizations] is a false dichotomy. It omits a far more uncomfortable and complicated truth about racial tension in France, immigration, and how Muslims are settling in an increasingly secular Europe where the resurgence of rightwing parties has further racialised religion...[The perpetrators] belong to no single community or country or mosque. There is no viper’s nest that can be burned down, and with it the problem. That way lies the mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan, where non-state actors such as al-Qaida were conflated with states and regimes, resulting in the killing of millions of innocents, and further fuelling a race to the bottom of hate." - Nesrine Malik


Edward Said criticizes Orientalism while I think of the deracialization of a satirical magazine's work: "The Orient and Islam have a kind of extrareal, phenomenologically reduced status that puts them out of reach of everyone except the Western expert. From the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient, the one thing the orient could not do was to represent itself. Evidence of the Orient was credible only after it had passed through and been made firm by the refining fire of the Orientalist’s work."


"No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are not more than starting-points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental. Yet just as human beings make their own history, they also make their cultures and ethnic identities. No one can deny the persisting continuities of long traditions, sustained habitations, national languages, and cultural geographies, but there seems no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness, as if that was all human life was about. Survival in fact is about the connections between things; in Eliot’s phrase, reality cannot be deprived of the 'other echoes [that] inhabit the garden.' It is more rewarding - and more difficult - to think concretely and sympathetically, contrapuntally, about others than only about 'us.' But this also means not trying to rule others, not trying to classify them or put them in hierarchies, above all, not constantly reiterating how 'our' culture or country is number one (or not number one, for that matter)." - Edward Said


An apparently liberal atheist man killed three muslim college students in North Carolina. In a status update he posted on FB before the shooting he quoted Richard Dawkins at length. The quote articulates liberal discourse on individual rights and rational thought in opposition to some "irrational" other. There are no trending hashtags for ‪#‎jesuismusulman‬ among my FB friends, no reproducible cartoons criticizing liberal discourse as barbaric, and no eulogies for liberal rights like freedom of expression. For liberal necropolitics some lives definitely matter more than others. I am reminded of Frantz Fanon: 'In the colonial context the settler only ends his work of breaking in the native when the latter admits loudly and intelligibly the supremacy of the white man's values.' #‎muslimlivesmatter‬ ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬


I understand the sentiment behind resisting the move to co-opt yet I can see how ‪#‎muslimlivesmatter‬ does not disallow, displace, or depoliticize ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ but, different from ‪#‎alllivesmatter‬, it redeploys its politics through the logics of the digital meme. Its radical underpinning of "WE" matter too is rearticulated to flow on similar networks in the pursuit of achieving visibility. To announce that #muslimlivesmatter is to open the conversation about empire's operations across the imagined boundary of the 'domestic' and the 'foreign.' This hashtag signals an exploit within an information network's structure to turn, even if briefly, the logics of empire against itself. Similarly, its vitality affords users the possibility to talk across and, more importantly, beyond networks, thus producing the potential for solidarity between movements, "to resist, threaten, and ultimately desert," as Alex Galloway and Eugene Thacker suggest, "the dominant political diagram."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Crítica de la excomunicación

Quique Rivera. "Menuda Urbe." 2010.

A continuación ofrezco un conjunto de postulados breves y en ciernes referentes a la crítica según articulada en algunas calles y aceras de la "ciudad letrada" puertorriqueña (tanto allá como acá, lo que sea que eso significa). La ciudad letrada que imagino a continuación adquiere su materialidad en las redes de discurso que conectan y desconectan flujos, cuerpos, voces y silencios. Estas redes de discurso no están limitadas a las contadas revistas y periódicos que circulan en papel o en formato digital, pues además incluyen variadas prácticas en otros contornos. La crítica que aquí propongo es una crítica excomunicada que en su práctica aspira disolver los circuitos cerrados de la (i)legitimación de voces. Es una práctica iniciada desde y perpetuada por la excomunicación de voces a las que no se les permite decir. Por lo tanto, la crítica excomunicada ejecuta una persistente tensión entre rechazar su exilio, su destierro, y reafirmarlo. En fin, la crítica de la excomunicación es una línea de fuga o un movimiento inacabado que continuamente retorna a la ausencia generada por su partida; es un ejercicio sin fin y en continua rearticulación.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Latina/o Studies Conference 2014: A Twitter Archive of #lschi2014

Visual flows.
The International Latina/o Studies Conference: Imagining the Past, Present, and Future took place from July 17 until July 19, 2014. It served as the founding conference for what will become the official organization of Latina/o Studies (official name TBD).

Organizers for the conference proposed the hashtag #lschi2014 to social media users and I have made an archive of tweets using this hashtag. I compiled them using Martin Hawksey's TAGS, which uses Twitter's API, and they can be accessed in this .XLSX document posted on figshare (DOWNLOAD ARCHIVE HERE). Some tweets are missing text but their totality can be obtained by visiting the link found in the column for "status_url." The dataset is available with a Creative Commons-Attribution license (CC-BY) for academic research and educational use.

Researchers making use of the archive should keep in mind that Twitter's API is not 100% reliable because it over-represents more "central" users as it obfuscates peripheral activity. Similarly, some users surely tweeted about the conference without using #lschi2014, hence this archive should not be taken as an infallible source for all Twitter activity associated with the conference. For a more expansive take on social media activity during the conference, researchers should also look into hashtag use on tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook, among other social network sites. The dataset might require further refining.

Interesting bit: users tweeted the conference hashtag 3,218 times during the three days (July 17-19) of the conference. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

21-15-1, or the Measures of Injustice

The Divestment Resolution calling for the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) to divest from companies violating Palestinian human rights was “postponed indefinitely” by a vote of 21-15-1. As the voting drew to a close, student representatives at the Central Student Government chose to delay a claim for justice through the façade of uncertainty and lack of “real” power. Students should only care for “student issues,” claimed one student representative while another underscored they were not the United Nations. Those who favored postponement bracket the University and themselves from the rest of society and the international flows of power. In the minds of these representatives it seems that students must refrain from becoming engaged in the social and political struggles around them. Perhaps, they imagine themselves above these.