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Thanato-geographies of Palestine and the possibility of politics

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This article critically examines thanato-geographies of Palestine-Israel and Palestinians and the crucial question of the possibility of politics in the context of sovereign exception. The main argument of the article is that bare life as referent for Palestinians’ lives overstates the subject-making capacities of the sovereign and understates the possibilities of political agency. As a response, the discussion turns to two prominent examples of exception – Israeli checkpoints and the Gaza borderlands – with the aim to keep in sharp focus both the thanatopolitical and that which – whether as complement or counter – exceeds it. Two important correctives arise from such an approach: thanatopolitical formations are i) dependent on broader thanato-geographies of capitalism; and ii) countered by the political agency of those figured as bare life.

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While the repressive geographies of asylum and refuge in Europe have been the focus of academic attention in recent years, much less work in geography has focused on the refugee camp as a distinctive political space. This paper sets out an analytical strategy for refugee camp space, focusing on the particular case of Palestinian camps in Lebanon. It takes three analytical cuts into the space of the camp: a critical take on Agamben’s ‘space of exception’ that accounts for the complex, multiple and hybrid sovereignties of the camp; an analysis of the camp as an assemblage of people, institutions, organisations, the built environment and the relations between them that produce particular values and practices; and an analysis of the constrained temporality of the camp, its enduring liminality and the particular time‐space from which it draws meaning. This spatial analysis of the camp offers a way of grounding geopolitics, seeing its manifestations and negotiations in the everyday lives and practices of ordinary people. The camp is much more than an anonymous terrain of conflict or a tool of international agencies, and understanding its spatiality is essential for seeing the everyday politics and material practices of refugees.
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Discourse on Israel, both propagandistic and analytical, has the peculiar tendency of representing it at one moment as normal – a normal democracy, a normal Western society, a normal state – and at others as exceptional: a democracy uniquely embattled among hostile neighbors, a secular state that historically fulfills the religious destiny of a people, a democracy that defines itself as a state for a single people and religion, the only democracy in the region, and so forth. At times, defenders of Israel lay claim to its normality as the reason to exempt it from the norms of human rights and international law, at others complain that Israel is being ‘singled out’ for criticism. This paper argues that these apparent contradictions, over and above their value to public relations opportunism, can best be explained by understanding Israel’s occupation of Palestine as an exemplary settler colonial project whose contradictions are embedded in the early framing of Zionism and whose unfolding follows a logic long ago analyzed by Albert Memmi and other theorists of settler colonialism.
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This article analyzes checkpoints in the Palestinian Territories and how they function as both a unique anthropological space and a nondescript nonplace. First, the author describes the birth of modern-day checkpoints, their formations, variations, and functions. Then, based on ethnographic research at the Qalandia checkpoint, halfway between Ramallah and Jerusalem, the author shows how the checkpoint is an economic and social hub and argues that it is an “anthropological space.” Qalandia and checkpoints generally can also be theorized as “nonplaces,” akin to airports, that are interstitial zones that sever Palestinian space-time. Finally, the author suggests that checkpoints play a central and symbolic role in Palestinian society that bespeaks the core predicament of Palestinian existence within a paradoxical and disordered relationship to geography over which Israel continuously attempts to exert control.
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How might academic practices contribute to the exciting proliferation of economic experiments occurring worldwide in the current moment? In this paper we describe the work of a nascent research community of economic geographers and other scholars who are making the choice to bring marginalized, hidden and alternative economic activities to light in order to make them more real and more credible as objects of policy and activism. The diverse economies research program is, we argue, a performative ontological project that builds upon and draws forth a different kind of academic practice and subjectivity. Using contemporary examples, we illustrate the thinking practices of ontological reframing, re-reading for difference and cultivating creativity and we sketch out some of the productive lines of inquiry that emerge from an experimental, performative and ethical orientation to the world. The paper is accompanied by an electronic bibliography of diverse economies research with over 200 entries.
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In this essay, I argue that Giorgio Agamben's revision of biopolitics poses the pressing political question of whether bare life itself can be mobilized by emancipatory movements. Yet, in order to develop the possibilities of resistance, we need to reconsider first of all the way bare life is implicated in the gendered, class, colonial, and racist configurations of the political and, because of this implication, suffers different forms of violence. The central paradox bare life presents for political analysis is not only the erasure of political distinctions but also the negative differentiation, or privation, such erasure produces with respect to differences that used to characterize a form of life that was destroyed. In order to show how this paradox opens up new possibilities of resistance, I supplement Agamben's genealogies of bare life with two different political cases—the first one represented by Orlando Patterson's discussion of premodern and modern forms of slavery, and the second case being the hunger strikes of militant British suffragettes at the beginning of the twentieth century. At stake is not just a diversification of the genealogy of bare life but a new feminist reflection on the possibilities of political praxis in the age of biopolitics.
Article
The UK Home Office and the US Transportation Security Administration have made substantial recent investment in new Backscatter X-ray scanners to screen bodies at securitised border checkpoints. Promising to make the invisible visualisable, these devices project an image of a naked body onto a screen to identify concealed 'risk'. Contemporary security practices which seek to fix identity at the border through biometrics, datamining, and profiling-of which the 'whole body scanner' is part-have their genealogy in efforts in aesthetics and medical science to mine the body for certainties and reveal something of the unknown future. The scan is revealed as a simultaneous partitioning and projection, the body 'digitally dissected' into its component parts, from which a specific, securitised visualisation is shaped. Drawing on the entangled histories of 'body knowledge' in art, science, and anatomy-their techniques of abstraction and technologies of visualisation-we explore what light may be shed on the Backscatter scan and, more importantly, what ramifications this may have for a critical response. Challenges to the biometric border have tended to centre on surveillance, making appeals to privacy and bodily integrity. However, if border disclosures which 'take apart' the body are more precisely understood as visualisations, then there are more fundamental issues than recourse to rights of privacy can counteract.
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This article inquires after women with whom we have seemingly become intimately familiar in the `war on/of terror'. On one hand, it asks after women such as Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England, examining how US female soldiers have been represented in the `war on/of terror'. On the other hand, it also inquires after some women we do not know at all — women who have largely remained faceless, nameless, figural, reduced to the snapshot of the veil — the women on behalf of whom this war is claimed to be waged. In so doing, it asks the question: What do any of these women have in common? The article explores how women in the `war on/of terror' have in common their silence, erasure and radical exclusion, in varied degrees, from politics. This has been effected through particular representational politics wherein women have been written over and against one another — American women over and against Afghan and Iraqi women, Jessica Lynch over and against Lynndie England. Accordingly, we fail to make connections across difference, and never ask after that which appears at the margins of the text, at the edges of the screen, on the borders of the photograph. This article, therefore, seeks to ask after these margins, edges and borders. It seeks to ask after femina sacra.