Migrant Climate in the Kinocene

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Andrew Baldwin, Christiane Fröhlich & Delf Rothe have just edited a wonderful  special issue of Mobilities on “Anthropocene Mobilities” Here.

You can read my contribution here [free] or at MOBILITIES 2019, VOL. 14, NO. 3, 375–380.

In this intervention, I put forward five short theses on the topic of ‘Anthropocene mobilities.’ My aim is not to unpack every concept con- tained herein but rather to provide a provocative introductory synthesis of five big ideas about Anthropocene mobility for further discussion. 1) We are living in the Kinocene, 2) The ontology of our time is an ontology of motion, 3) We need a new movement-oriented political theory to grapple better with the mobile events of our time. We need a kinopolitics, 4) Climate change is a weapon of primitive accumulation. 5) The Kinocene presents us with the danger of new forms of domination (a new coloni- alism, a new climate capitalism, new states, and new borders) but also with the opportunity for a new revolutionary sequence.

 

We are living in the Kinocene
We live in an age of movement. I mean this in the directly materialist sense, in which huge amounts of materials are now in wide circulation around the globe. There are more humans, circulating and consuming more large, cultivated animals and calorie-yielding plants than ever before. Life is one of the most efficient maximizers of entropy on Earth, and humans have increased their entropic impact by further burning fossil fuels, overproducing nitrogen fertilizers, removing forests, and increasing net carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Portions of the planet are literally moving more quickly and more unevenly – around axes of gender, race, and class.
The widespread use of global transportation technology also means that more people and things are on the move on the surface of the Earth than ever before. The Earth is becoming so mobile that even its glaciers are on the move. Karl Marx was not thinking of receding glaciers, but I think it is safe to say that ‘all that was solid is today literally melting into air’ – as carbon dioxide. Mobility is not something happening to just humans: more than half the world’s plant and animal species are also on the move.
This movement as a whole, and not merely the geological impact of humans alone on a layer of strata, is why I think the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene are only subcategories of a much larger kinetic transformation of the Earth currently underway. Humans might have initiated this increase in movement (and capitalism certainly hastened it), but now the whole planet is produ- cing positive feedback cycles (carbon cycles, nitrogen cycles, etc.) that have lives of their own, whose mobility needs to be acknowledged.

Although the term ‘Anthropocene’ will likely stay with us as a productive term of contestation, it has a rather paradoxical meaning. The Anthropocene means not only that humans are parts of larger entangled geological and planetary processes but also that the use of the term ‘anthropos’ suggests that humans are somehow distinct enough from those processes to have their own special epoch. This is why Donna Haraway prefers the unwieldy term ‘Chthulucene,’ to describe the tentacular entanglement of all Earth’s processes with one another – thus partially undermining the very idea that there can be a sole independent cause of an epoch (Haraway 2016).

The Earth and all its processes (including humans) always have been in motion and entangled, so, historically, we are dealing with a matter of degree. However, I do think we can say that today more minerals (including those inside human bodies) are in circulation on the surface of the Earth than ever before. We thus are witnessing one of the most mobile geological strata of Earth’s history: the Kinocene…

Read the rest here.

Mobile Borders (Confini Mobili)

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For those of you who read Italian, Tommaso Morawski and Ernesto C. Sferrazza Papa have just published a lovely edited special issue on “Philosophy and Cartography” in Pólemos: Materiali di filosofia e critica sociale.

FILOSOFIA E CARTOGRAFIA: PROSPETTIVE STORICHE, TEORICHE, ESTETICHE E POLITICHE

Ernesto kindly translated my contribution:

CONFINI MOBILI

Thomas Nail
Introduzione

Questo saggio introduce una nuova metodologia per lo studio dei confini; una metodologia “kinopolitica”, ossia orientata all’analisi del movimento.
Vorrei innanzitutto argomentare contro due assunzioni molto co- muni a proposito di come funzionino e lavorino i confini: la prima è che i confini siano statici, la seconda che tengano le persone fuori. Il mio argomento prende la forma di tre tesi interconnesse sui confini: 1) i confini sono in movimento; 2) la loro funzione principale non è interrompere il movimento, bensì farlo circolare; 3) i confini sono strumenti di accumulazione primitiva. A queste tre tesi segue un bre- ve esempio per illustrarle. Le implicazioni maggiori di queste tre tesi, come ho mostrato con maggiore ampiezza altrove, riguardano la riteorizzazione dei confini nell’epoca contemporanea.

Read the rest here.

 

 

Guilty Before Trial: The Image of the Criminal Migrant

World Press Photo of the Year 2013.26 February 2013, Djibouti City, Djibouti. African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighboring SomaliaÑa tenuous link to relatives abroad. Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East.

I have just published a blog post at Border Criminologies, Oxford Law on images of migration.
More people and more images are in circulation today than ever before in history. The digital image and the centrality of the migrant thus mark a new period in political aesthetics. Since 2014, in particular, people have been sharing millions of digital images of the lives, travels, and deaths of migrants. For example, the image of Alan Kurdi, the dead Syrian three-year old, is now one of the most influential images of all time. An iconic photo of migrants on a beach holding their mobile phones up in the air to try and get a signal to call home won the 2014 World Press Photo Award. We think of image viewing as a passive activity separate from the legal system, but the circulation of migrant images should be taken seriously as a political act with real consequences.    
              Anti-immigrant media representations and rhetoric have proliferated—often with the effect of treating migrants as criminals before any crime has been committed.  In particular, the spread of images and rhetoric of the migrant caravan as a military ‘invasion’ of the United states have had disastrous consequences. President Trump called the caravan an ‘invasion’ and ‘an assault on our country’; the Associated Press called it an ‘army of migrants’ and tweeted about ‘a ragtag army of the poor’; and Robert Bowen murdered 11 people in a Synagogue because a Jewish refugee group supported caravan refugees. Trump even told the border patrol to shoot migrantsif they throw rocks. This aesthetic criminalization of migrants and the rise of cyber-racismhelped mobilize anti-immigrant militia groups and popular support against refugees. Now refugees are being deported from the US and detained in cages in Mexico as if they were criminals. The explicit media framing of migrants as a violent, criminal, military invasion is a an old historical tactic with a huge popular resurgence in the US and Europe…

Read the rest here.

Download pdf here.

 

The Politics of Borders: Sovereignty, Security, and the Citizen After 9/11, Matthew Longo (2017)

Borders sit at the center of global politics. Yet they are too often understood as thin lines, as they appear on maps, rather than as political institutions in their own right. This book takes a detailed look at the evolution of border security in the United States after 9/11. Far from the walls and fences that dominate the news, it reveals borders to be thick, multi-faceted and binational institutions that have evolved greatly in recent decades. The book contributes to debates within political science on sovereignty, citizenship, cosmopolitanism, human rights and global justice. In particular, the new politics of borders reveal a sovereignty that is not waning, but changing, expanding beyond the state carapace and engaging certain logics of empire.

This is a very well written and researched study of where border politics is at post 911. I highly recommend it. You can read my review here.

Kinopolitics: Borders in Motion

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We live in an age of movement. More than at any other time in history, people and things move longer distances, more frequently, and faster than ever before. We live in an age of world historical global migration, increas- ingly rapid climatic changes, of high-speed digital images, of accelerating universes and accelerated particles. All that was solid melted into air long ago and is now in full circulation around the world like dandelion seeds adrift on turbulent winds. We find ourselves, at the turn of the twenty-first century, in a world where every major domain of activity, from nature and society to the arts and sciences, has become increasingly defined by patterns of motion that precede and exceed human agency.

We can no longer continue on with the same old theoretical tools under these circumstances. We need a new theoretical humanities that no longer starts and ends with humans and human systems (language, society, culture, the unconscious, and so on). Today, more than ever before, it is apparent that humans and their systems are not the only agents on this planet. Humans and their social structures are shot through and exceeded by more primary and constitutive material-kinetic processes and patterns. Humans are thus caught up in much larger meta-stable patterns of motion with their own kind of logic, yet to be systematically studied across the disciplines. Matters both living and nonliving (geological, geographical, climatological, microbiological, technological, and so on) are not merely passive objects of human construction. Humans and nonhuman beings are two dimensions or regions of the same systems of collective interactional agency or patterns of motion.

Studying these patterns does not mean, however, that we should abandon the study of human agency and structures. Far from it. The challenge of what is now being called ‘posthumanism’ or ‘new materialism’, of which I see my work as a part, is to provide a new theoretical framework to help us think through the entangled continuity of human and nonhuman agencies that now confront us. The natural sciences, typically charged with the study of non- human structures, have largely treated these structures as independent objects of subjective knowledge, without attending to the active role their objects of study have played in the shaping of scientific knowledge itself.2 The sciences, just as much as the humanities, therefore require a new theoretical foundation that takes seriously the collective agency of humans and nonhuman systems as dimensions of something else—of what I call ‘kinetic systems’. The anthropocentric project has come to an end.3 We have crossed the threshold of a new Copernican revolution. Now is the time to put forward new ideas, such as a theory of kinetic systems.

The contribution of my chapter to this larger project is to show some of the political consequences of posthumanist kinetic systems with the aim of avoiding ‘inhumanism’.4 In the hopes of bringing the theoretical human- ities closer to a more posthuman and movement-oriented perspective this chapter proceeds in three parts. Part one motivates and contextualises the shift in the theoretical humanities away from thinking about anthropocen- tric systems—starting with Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of assemblages. Part Two then provides a definition of and argument for a shift towards a movement-oriented perspective for thinking about politics in particular. Part three provides a concrete example of how this new perspective helps us to think about the contemporary border politics.

You can read the rest of my chapter here from Posthuman Ecologies: Complexity and Process After Deleuze, edited by Rosi Braidotti and Simone Bignall.

Asylum Report from the US-Mexico border (Dec, 2018)

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This report looks like essential reading for understanding what is going on at the US-Mexico border right now. Thanks to @_gesanchez for sharing this!

The report is based on fieldwork conducted during this past November on 8 regions along the US Mexico border. It involves extensive observations at ports of entry,  extensive caselaw analysis and interviews with law enforcement, civil society, government officials and ordinary citizens on both sides of the border.

Our report identifies the existence of a clear, widespread strategy leading most asylum seekers to present themselves at official US ports of entry to initiate their claims, yet being returned for this purpose to Mexican territory under the claim that the US lacks the ability to process them. This has led to significant delays and to the emergence of ad-hoc systems for asylum seekers’ processing coordinated by Mexican civil society, local and state agencies. Despite their good intentions these systems are plagued by insufficient oversight, allegations of corruption and abuse. But most troublingly, we identify increasingly precarious conditions and growing uncertainty among the thousands of people stranded on the Mexican side for the border, and which play a role in their decision to opt for alternative forms of crossing that put their integrity and potential chances to secure asylum relief at risk.

Download the report here: AsylumReport 2018

Sanctuary, Solidarity, Status!, Thomas Nail (2018)

I just got my copy of Open Borders, edited by Reece Jones. This is a landmark collection of work on open borders and is filled with excellent contributions. I will definitely be teaching from this! You can read my chapter from the book here.

Abstract

The aim of this chapter is to describe the current possible path toward a world without borders. Rather than provide a speculative vision of what a borderless world might or ought to look like, this chapter begins instead from where we are and, more importantly, what the road ahead will likely look like.

Open Borders

Border control continues to be a highly contested and politically charged subject around the world. This collection of essays challenges reactionary nationalism by making the positive case for the benefits of free movement for countries on both ends of the exchange. Open Borders counters the knee-jerk reaction to build walls and close borders by arguing that there is not a moral, legal, philosophical, or economic case for limiting the movement of human beings at borders. The volume brings together essays by theorists in anthropology, geography, international relations, and other fields who argue for open borders with writings by activists who are working to make safe passage a reality on the ground. It puts forward a clear, concise, and convincing case for a world without movement restrictions at borders.

The essays in the first part of the volume make a theoretical case for free movement by analyzing philosophical, legal, and moral arguments for opening borders. In doing so, they articulate a sustained critique of the dominant idea that states should favor the rights of their own citizens over the rights of all human beings. The second part sketches out the current situation in the European Union, in states that have erected border walls, in states that have adopted a policy of inclusion such as Germany and Uganda, and elsewhere in the world to demonstrate the consequences of the current regime of movement restrictions at borders. The third part creates a dialogue between theorists and activists, examining the work of Calais Migrant Solidarity, No Borders Morocco, activists in sanctuary cities, and others who contest border restrictions on the ground.

You can buy the book here.