I’m thinking through a more substantial post about the ethics and politics of the ongoing conflict in and around Gaza — it is at once right in my academic interest, in its relation to biopolitics and social justice, but it’s so polarizing and complex I want to be sure my thoughts on the matter are measured.
In the meantime, I thought I would offer up some thoughts on an underreported series of events going on in South Africa.
Lost in the clamor over Gaza, Ukraine, and Syria, the Ebola scare in Sierra Leone is really suffering from a dearth of news coverage. The global health ramifications there are startling (and the country is already overburdened by the medical and logistical nightmare). There are reports that several individuals who tested positive for Ebola are unaccounted for and likely in the general population. That idea is the stuff of horror film beginnings; however, it does emphasize something that we easily forget in the face of the moralization of health: the infected are people with actions, desires, feelings, and connections of their own. That is not to say that this is a good thing — certainly the preventable spread of deadly disease anywhere is terrifying and tragic — but the inability of public health services to quarantine and track those with Ebola speaks at once to inequities in the distribution of global health (and the attention of global media, both of which are concentrated in the Global North and Global West), and it speaks to the impossibility of quarantine (as totalizing control).
I’ll be back in the relatively near future with a post on “Ethical Defense” (also the title of my final dissertation chapter — don’t worry, I won’t give much of that away) as it relates to Gaza.
One of the reports on ebola:
Clayton Lockett, Medical Experimentation in the Prison Industrial Complex, and the Question of Capital Punishment
It was hard to choose a link for this story, given that it is all over mainstream and independent news outlets. I went with The Guardian because (a) it provided detailed description and (b) they are based outside of the U.S. and have a bit more critical distance.
This is a sad case and I think it is in need of very little critical exegesis — and, certainly, I don’t want to be disrespectful, turning one man’s death into a simple teaching lesson or an example, especially given the privilege that I would be exercising and advertising in doing so.
Instead, I’ll say only a little: This execution, with all of its political intrigues and medical secrecy, fits shockingly neatly in a long history of biomedical experimentation (particularly on black bodies), especially within the prison system (for more on this you might consider: Allen Hornblum’s Acres of Skin (cheap on amazon: http://amzn.to/R1n2GD) or Harriet A. Washington’s Medical Apartheid (also very affordable on amazon: http://amzn.to/1fugZ8Q).
Lockett’s inhumane execution may lead to revision and review of Capital Punishment in the U.S. — one can only hope — but public outcry has to call the state to accountability.
Inhumane Execution in Ohio
Apologies for the long radio silence — job market, dissertating, teaching, etc — things are slowing down and I should get back to producing content at a bit more regular pace again soon.
This is just a quick blurb, a recent state execution in Ohio using a new lethal injection cocktail went horribly awry and was anything but humane and painless.
I just wanted to bring this to your attention as a biopolitical issue.
I’m working through a lot in terms of how I approach and think about biopolitics (what it is, has been, and will become as a theoretical discourse, a political paradigm, and an object of study).
I anticipate a post in the coming weeks about some of what I’ve already figured out.
Bio-Politics in 1911!
So, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for research that might make its way into my dissertation revisions or my first monograph and I noticed this little gem in a footnote of Marius Turda’s Modernism and Eugenics.
I’ve been under the impression that Rudolf Kjellén had coined the term, but I’m happy to see that the conceptual history of biopolitics (as a discourse) is longer and more convoluted than that.
So in this issue of The New Age, you’ll see “Bio-Politics” by G.W. Harris. This short diatribe is a (rather frightening by today’s standards) diatribe about enacting eugenic policies at the state level. It really drives home the very real relation between eugenics and biopolitics that is so often referred to without being discussed in contemporary literature.
To me, this also reinforces the importance of considering race (and ethnicity and nationalism) when one evokes the discourse of biopolitics.
Read it and let me know what you think.
Another Quick Post: Letter from Guantanamo Bay Prisoner
I came across this and decided to glance at it during my morning internet routine — you know, the daily routine of websites you visit before you actually start doing work on your computer?
Needless to say, I felt ashamed to be enjoying such a luxurious idea of work after reading this man’s story. Its easy for Americans to forget about how scarce jobs are in other countries and how poor working conditions can be, and this man’s story struck me right away.
Then I got to the hunger striking and force-feeding and I felt like I had to pass this on in the blog.
This neatly — if horrifyingly — addresses the way that bodies and politics overlap, how bodies become political objects (quote: “I am a human being, not a passport”).
At the same time, it viscerally puts pressure on how easily prisoners and victims turn into spectacles and stories in our consciousness, and how quickly we forget about their plight when they do.
No person should be treated thusly.
A sobering morning, thanks and apologies to Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, and thanks to the New York Times for the relaying the message to us.