What is at stake here is life, or more precisely how life is to be lived. The option, according to those in power, is that we should get used to this new 'normal' and develop abilities to cope with the biopolitical exception. In short, be resilient. Mark Neocleous in a brilliant commentary in Radical Philosophy unpacks the rise, 'in the last decade ... [of resilience as] one of the key political categories of our time' (3) and argues that this 'new fetish' (6) has supplemented 'the demand of security and for security' which dominated the post 9/11 world. Security is a mark of 'fragility and its (negative associations)' (3) while resilience has positive associations. It is about the future, the capacity to rebuild, cope, and most importantly, it has a positive impact on the social. Learning 'resilience' is thus regarded as a positive virtue for it connotes the capacity to cope with change and overcome specific conditions--poverty, exploitations, discriminations and other constructed and natural threats. This is precisely why resilience, as Neocleous notes, has gained currency across various institutions, policies, and programmes: it 'falls easily from the mouths of politicians, a variety of state departments are funding research into it, urban planners are now obliged to take it into consideration, and academics are falling over themselves to conduct research into it' (3). In addition, resilience appears to be the dominant modality at work in the domain of reality TV, advice columns, self-help books, programmes for military personnel, families and friends, International Monetary Fund policies, strategies for dealing with ecological and environmental destruction, and poverty alleviation policies and projects. The list of places where resilience emerges as a key political category is multiple, too many to list, but what is clear is that it is a highly problematic dominant political category that has penetrated various aspects of life.
So what's wrong with resilience if it engenders the social to learn to cope with trauma and crisis? Is it not healthy, for example, if residents of Christchurch, who are still recovering from the 2011 earthquakes and aftershocks, are encouraged to be resilient, to foster 'a culture of preparedness' (4)? Of course, to a certain extent, this is a positive practice that ensures that citizens are critically aware of what to do in the event of life-threatening occurrences. In that regard the concept of resilience is productive; however, when the concept of resilience is turned into a political category, or more precisely bound into and made foundational to a larger system of calculation and classification, as a biopolitical mechanism of articulating subjectivity, then it becomes something we should resist. As Neocleous puts it, resilience is about the training of a self capable of 'withstand[ing] whatever crisis capital undergoes and whatever political measures the state carries out to save it' (4).
The concept of resilience is, first and foremost, built upon a discourse of crisis or emergency. That is to say, the very articulation of resilience is an anticipation of a crisis. And today we have no shortages of crises--economic, financial, environmental, planetary, and so on--which has lead some, such as Slavoj Zizek, to characterize the current era as one of living in a permanent state of crisis. In his article 'A Permanent Economic Emergency', Zizek suggests that 'we are now entering a period in which a kind of economic state of emergency is becoming permanent: turning into a constant, a way of life. It brings with it the threat of far more savage austerity measures, cuts in benefits, diminishing health and education services and more precarious employment' (2010, 86-87). This logic of permanent crisis or emergency is not, however, an exception for Zizek: capitalism is built upon and 'obeys a pseudo-logic of its own'--a logic of perpetual crisis, of being 'always on the brink of financial collapse' (87). The logic of perpetual crisis is not confined to the economy as it is connected to other domains of life--social, cultural, political--and other crises--climate, food, resources, and financial. The point is that crisis marks the new normal, a state of perpetual emergencies, and this, significantly has become the 'fundamental mechanism for policing the imagination' (Neocleous, 2013, 4). Consider for instance the normalization of the state of exception under the guise of resilience against terrorism to produce a sense of perpetual emergency and hence open the possibilities for further policing of the social; or the crisis of resource depletion that has amplified transnational resource exploration. While resilience in and of itself is not a problem, it becomes one when the state takes it up and uses it as a mechanism of control to cultivate a particular form of subjectivity. In short, through resilience, the state ushers in a new biopolitical rationality for the administration of life. The emergence of resilience has not meant that the discourse of security, which has animated our social for the last decade, is dispensed with. Rather, the logic of security, which post 9/11 has been articulated 'in the form of preparation for a terrorist attack folds into a much broader logic of security in the form of preparation for an unknown disaster' (4). The anticipation of an impending, unknown, crisis produces the very conditions for various kinds of pre-emptive wars against diverse socialities that constitute the social body. Echoes of George Bush's 2002 National Security Policy put in place post 9/11 to respond to the attacks of 11 September 2001, which legitimized preemptive strike as a way of dealing with international terrorism can be heard here. Conceptualized in this way the recoding of security under the logic of resilience is a much more obscene expression of power: resilience presupposes threats, crisis, as the permanent state of affairs; it legitimizes increased expenditure on military, immigration, customs, and other state agencies, in preparation to act on these crises. The recoding of security as resilience legitimizes the biopolitical reconstitution of the social around the idea of 'resilient citizenship' (5), that is a depoliticized citizenship and social body that is willing to Keep Calm and Carry On, be strong in the face of difficulties, take it on the chin as the proverbial saying goes. Resilience as the mark of the new biopolitical, which supposedly has positive connotations (vitality, strength, ingenuity), ironically, works to imprison the social imagination.
Our contributors to this issue are, collectively, against resilience. They are for counterpower--that is for resistance and fighting against power. In the language of Foucault, these contributions are committed to the idea that political struggle is essential for emancipation from specific forms of knowledge, ways of thinking and modalities of belonging. They remain dissatisfied with specific conventionalities and new normals, for these reproduce violent regimes of exclusion, disavow alternatives and trap the social imagination.
The issue opens with a moving tribute by Suvendrini Perera to Wadjularbinna Nullyarimma, Gungalidda Elder and Tent Embassy Leader. Wadjularbinna, friend of borderlands, a fighter for indigenous rights, passed in late 2012, and with her passing Australia has lost a key figure from whom we can unlearn our prejudices and embrace an ethico-political frontier that rejects violent regimes of inclusion/exclusion. Much can be learned from Wadjularbinna, as Perera reminds us. Her stand against the John Howard government for its violent connection, linking of chains of equivalence, 'to draw a link between asylum seekers and the 9/11 terrorists' (Perera) to legitimise its border protection policy, is instructive. Wadjularbinna attacks settler colonialism, the sovereignty of the nation-state, and connects historical violence against indigenous peoples within the nation to the violences enacted on asylum seekers. Between these two historical poles we witness, as Wadjularbinna tellingly points out, the continuation of a longer regime of colonial/settler racism. Also explicit in her denouncement is the maintenance of a specific regime of sovereignty that is built on an ethic of divisions. For Wadjularbinna, rather than being prepared for a perceived threat (asylum seekers or indigenous peoples), that is, rather than being resilient and producing inhumane policies, an ethico-political injunction requires a different conception of belonging: an epistemological rupture from our resilience-informed position to one that 'teaches us that everyone is a part of us and we should care about them. We can't separate ourselves from other human beings--it's a duty' (Wadjularbinna, cited in Perera). This is precisely why Perera argues Wadjularbinna demonstrates how 'enacting a living Aboriginal sovereignty is bound up with the ethics of hospitality towards those seeking refuge. As politicians count the number of boats arriving in Australian waters, Aboriginal leaders mark their ownership and sovereignty over their country through continuing practices of hospitality and openness to those arriving by sea, not as conquerors but as sojourners and supplicants'.
Jane Mummery in her article, 'Protecting the Global Commons: Comparing three ethico-political foundations for response to climate change', calls for an urgent need for ethico-political responses that might move the climate change debate forward. The essay begins by marking out what Mummery calls the 'tragedy of the atmospheric commons', that is an approach to climate change that 'rests on a typical kind of cost-benefit analysis undertaken by self-interested persons, but in situations where resources are limited. For instance, when there is a shortage of any resource (e.g. energy, water) there is usually a call for its conservation' (Mummery). Shortages are addressed in economic terms, resources allocated in terms of economic return to private landowners/stakeholders while other users are expected to pay higher costs for limited use while exhibiting the resilience (resigned acceptance) promulgated in biopolitical discourse. Relatedly, such an approach has 'the tendency to prioritise short term over long term interests', precisely because the damage of climate change 'is neither clearly visible nor attributable in the eyes of the majority of the present generations (in the developed world)'. Climate change sceptics have used the latter argument powerfully to further their cause. The tragedy of the atmospheric commons is that it is set up in such a way that 'a negative outcome seems increasingly difficult to avert'; given this, Mummery examines three different ethico-political foundations--state-centric responses built upon the notion of international justice; responses proposed under the discourse of global cosmopolitanism; and collective voices constituted under the rubric of radical democracy--and argues that the latter perspective (radical democracy) provides the most robust challenge to tackling the climate change issue and pushing it in a direction that would engender positive and productive outcomes. The state-centric perspective, which 'seems to be at the heart of the climate change policy regime', works through the idea of differentiated responsibilities, which is in part built upon 'modern conceptions of both states and international relations'. In this model, productive dialogue cannot take place because a global, common response cannot be forged to address a global problem, and the battle continues to be about nation-states, rates of development and economic progress, national rights and national economies. The end result of this, as we witness today, is 'an ongoing waiting game regarding who will go first in committing to such actions as stringent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions given the foreseeable costs of doing so'. The second ethico-political response, global cosmopolitanism, recasts the focus of the debates by putting 'the stress on people as well as states and the international regime' and seeks to produce a global ethics and global citizenship which challenges particularist interests and cultivates a sense of personal responsibility that connects individual actions to public policy, state initiatives and international conventions. The problem with this ethico-political response is, firstly, 'the difficulty ... in ... galvanis[ing] these individuals into action ... [and] bridg[ing] the gap between recognisable responsibilities or duties and actions'. In short, the problem of building a global consensus, which haunts the state-centric approach, remains. The third ethico-political response, radical democracy, is built on a different logic: conceived as an '"endlessly unfolding process of societal, institutional, interpersonal transformation" ... [it is] both unapologetically a radically open and a non-ideal theory, meaning that it does not wait on the formulation and achievement of "ideal background conditions" (such as new technologies) or on the negotiation of consensus'. In that sense it challenges the current impasse with the earlier two approaches and engenders a response that is much more nuanced, that connects climate change to the democratic process, to the neoliberal regime, and to the lives of citizens while striving to refuse the provision of a global solution and produce multiple emergent responses that are open to the possibility of 'both justice and new and different socio-environmental futures'.
Matthew Applegate's contribution, 'Virtuality and Resistance: Situating the Manifesto Between Command and Political Metamorphosis', discusses the political manifesto in its various formulations and argues for new conceptualizations of political manifesto that could function as a 'virtual topography of resistance'. This argument responds to a specific assertion: the end of the manifesto genre because of the 'virtual power of the internet and social media'--'a claim that in our contemporary moment follows a line of argument in which the obsolescence of the manifesto is thought to be a result of extant revolutionary potential in virtual outlets like Twitter or Facebook'. Such an assertion, for Applegate, is not just about genre; more importantly what is at stake is the question of radical politics itself. Beginning with a challenge to the 'generic determination' of the manifesto, Applegate takes up Deleuze's notion of the virtual to get us away from an instrumental conception of manifesto: that is as a 'program prophesying or determining the future of resistance' with a determined outcome. To think of the manifesto virtually is to consider the 'manifesto's virtual capacities ... the avenues of potential that undergird its political orientation and articulation. In this sense, the politics of the genre are not a question of left or right, but posed as processes of reinventing and re-framing our present spatio-temporal distributions, and even further, the content of our subjective determinations'. Putting into dialogue Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire and Adorno and Horkheimer's recently published Towards a New Manifesto, Applegate argues that what connects these two texts is the refusal to articulate a political program for the revolution, that is to set up a programless manifesto. This, of course, goes against the grain of conventionalized ideas of what a manifesto is: it provides a political program. The refusal to offer a program 'establish[es] a political ground from which to theorize the manifesto genre in opposition to a political program. This is to say, a manifesto exclusive of command ... gesture[s] toward ... a way of theorizing a politics of resistance that encourages action without authoritarian impulses'. And this position is explicitly underscored in Hardt and Negri's recent co-authored pamphlet Declaration, 'where the expression of a radical politics is not a question of telling anyone what to do, nor a question of determinism or utopia, but an immanent desire toward the spatio-temporal reconfiguration of the present, the potential in and of its actual activity is simultaneously aggregated and dispersed'. The radical politics emerging from Empire as manifesto plays-out Deleuze's notion of the virtual in two ways: first in its reconfiguration of the genre of manifesto itself and second in its affirmation of a 'vital and dynamic potential for revolutionary expression' (Applegate). Such a radical politics does not have a named subject of revolution per se (let's say the worker or proletariat) but is built upon the idea of working constantly to develop 'tactics with which to disrupt authoritarian impulses'. For Applegate therefore, against the claim that the manifesto genre is dead, a rethinking of the form and function of the manifesto, qua Deleuze, opens another way of thinking about what a manifesto is in the digital age, and consequently suggests that conceptualizing a virtual topography of manifesto is much more productive. Connected to this virtualization is the question of what is a radical politics today and again, qua Deleuze, Applegate affirms the virtual--the refusal of programmatic politics opens 'a complex landscape of revolutionary tactics and expression [to] emerge ... [and] resistance becomes the proliferation of multiple times and spaces where anti-capitalist and anti-statist forms of life are lived. Stated another way, the virtual becomes the real'. The conclusion that Applegate arrives at, 'a profound desire to reengineer radical politics from the top down', is articulated in the shadow of the works of someone like Jacques Ranciere, specifically his work in the Ignorant Schoolmaster which argues for a rejection of a teacher-student pedagogical relationship in favour of a more equitable open pedagogic encounter that is not top-down. The lesson for politics, qua Ranciere, is the same: a radical politics is possible only when the principle of equality forms the basis of that solidarity. There are no hierarchies of power in the revolutionary movement!
The contribution from Aman Sium, 'From Starving Child to Rebel-Pirate: The West's New Imagery of a "Failed" Somalia' exemplifies what the other articles collectively claim must be resisted--the Western narrative that uses the War on Terror to divide and conquer and that promotes exploitative, destructive capitalist ideology. Using the specific case of Somalia as case-example and the African continent more generally, Sium argues that the discourse of failed state, which informs how Somalia is imagined and constructed, functions to 'reaffirm the stability of Western whiteness in the face of Black Muslim threat inscribed onto Somali bodies'. More significantly, this countenance of Somalia opens the door for the entry of various forms of resilience measures and training regimes--food aid and militarized intervention for example--that do not actually tackle the 'problem': the failing Somalian present. Rather, as Sium points out, such interventions are more about ensuring that the failed state does not completely fail: it must be made resilient against the finality of failure while maintaining its failed image so that Western imperialism can find its foothold. Perversely therefore, the project is not about getting Somalia out of failure but of maintaining its status as failed state so that Western intervention is legitimized. It is under the guise of Somalia as failed state that the imperialist War on Terror can be extended not just to that nation, but also to the region more generally. Perpetuating this image of Somalia is thus in the interest of dominant power. This image of the failed state is also 'always racialized' and becomes a shorthand for 'coded meanings of pre-modernity, barbarism, and cultural deficit ... premised on eurocentric binaries of essentialized good and evil in a world that demands a much more nuanced approach to comparative international politics'. Keeping Somalia as a failed state thus maintains an orientalist discourse that furthers the discourse of dependency and promotes the resilience-building interventions. This representation of the failed state is also highly gendered, particularly around the discourse of aid and the status of refugees: as Sium demonstrates, 'the child, mother and refugee space are all feminized. In fact it is crucial the West feminizes the child in order to distance them from the hyper-masculine Somali man, who is always under suspicion of having links to terror. As a result the Somali father is rarely presented in the same still, shot or clip as mother and child. He is made absent. He is undeserving of charity in part because of his absence, but also because of the enduring suspicion that he could, at any given moment, become a member of the insurgency'. What is going on here is a necropolitical operation that has sentenced Somalia 'to socio-political death'; a failing Somalia that is on the verge of death but which can never be allowed to die finally. The living-dead Somalia becomes the figure that is maintained for the incursions of Empire. Given this, Sium asks: 'in a dialectically-driven world that seeks to box us into one of (usually two) antithetical categories, how do we carve out spaces of critique that do not assume our membership in one camp or the other, but rather complicate the very existence and limitations of these camps?' It would be antithetical to actually provide a programmatic response to this, qua Applegate's intervention; perhaps the only response must remain vague, programless--it can only say that spaces of critique can be forged under the notion of counterpower: a fighting back, qua Foucault, against power with the aim of putting power into perpetual disorder and for emancipation.
The rest of the issue is composed of a sequence of five poems by Renee Pettitt-Schipp, and book reviews by Gaia Giuliani, Thor Kerr and Stuart Scrase. The poems address issues of memory, belonging, borders, suffering, and violences that are part and parcel of the lives of the people of Cocos Islands and refugees in the Indian Ocean Territories and in that regard connects with Perera's tribute and Wadjularbinna's message on living through difference. It also speaks to the essays by Mummery, Applegate and Sium for at stake, here, in this issue, are considerations about the new normal and the exercise of counterpower.
Finally, we wish to extend a very special thank you to Dr. Kristen Phillips, our outgoing Assistant Editor, who leaves us as of the end of 2012. Kristen has done a brilliant job in ensuring that the journal-machine, its numerous parts, worked seamlessly to ensure that the job was done. It does take a particular kind of individual: one who is dedicated, committed, and most importantly invested in what the journal stands for. Kristen is absolutely such a person. She will be sorely missed. The editorial collective extends our deep sense of gratitude and appreciation to Kristen and wishes her well with her future endeavours. We would also like to thank all the anonymous reviewers for their time and dedication, and our readers and friends for their continued support: without them the journal would be nonexistent. And finally, we wish to welcome to the borderlands collective, Dr. Anne Begg, our new incoming Assistant Editor, who recently joined us.
Agamben, G 2004, 'No to Bio-political Tattooing', Le Monde, 10 January, republished in truthout, http://www.truthout.org/article/ lemonde-no-bio-political-tattooing
Applegate, M 2012, 'Virtuality and resistance: situating the Manifesto between command and political performance', borderlands, vol. 11, no 3.
Mummery, J 2012, 'Protecting the Global Commons: Comparing three ethico-political foundations for response to climate change', borderlands, vol. 11, no 3.
Neocleous, M 2013, 'Resisting Resilience', Radical Philosophy, vol. 178, pp. 2-7.
Perera, S 2012, 'Tribute to Wadjularbinna Nullyarimma, Gungalidda Elder and Tent Embassy Leader', borderlands, vol. 11, no. 3.
Pettitt-Schipp, R 2012, 'In the Shadow of a Palm Tree: Poems from the Indian Ocean Territories', borderlands, vol. 11, no. 3.
Ranciere, J 1991, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Kristin Ross (trans). Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
Sium, A 2012, 'From Starving Child to Rebel-Pirate: The West's New Imagery of a 'Failed' Somalia', borderlands, vol. 11, no. 3.
Zizek, S 2010, 'A Permanent Economic Emergency', New Left Review, vol. 64, pp. 85-95.
University of Otago
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