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.

Militant Acts The Role of Investigations in Radical Political Struggles, Marcelo Hoffman (Jan 2019)

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This looks great!

Offers a history of the role of investigations in radical political struggles from the nineteenth century forward.

Militant Acts presents a broad history of the concept and practice of investigations in radical political struggles from the nineteenth century to the present. Radicals launched investigations into the conditions and struggles of the oppressed and exploited to stimulate their political mobilization and organization. These investigations assumed a variety of methodological forms in a wide range of geographical and institutional contexts, and they also drew support from the participation of intellectuals such as Marx, Lenin, Mao, Dunayevskaya, Foucault, and Badiou. Marcelo Hoffman analyzes newspapers, pamphlets, reports, and other source materials, which reveal the diverse histories, underappreciated difficulties, and theoretical import of investigations in radical political struggles. In so doing, he challenges readers to rethink the supposed failure of these investigations and concludes that the value of investigations in radical political struggles ultimately resides in the possibility of producing a new political “we.”

“The kind of archival and synthetic work on investigations that this book evinces has been accomplished nowhere else. Hoffman’s survey provides the reader with an understanding of how investigations fit into the theoretical practice of many important Marxist thinkers, along with an argument for their utility. Further, original insights into these thinkers, which enhance or even contradict our available understandings with better historical evidence, are offered.” — William S. Lewis, author of Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism

“Hoffman focuses on a distinctive, yet little recognized practice of resistance and shows how it impacts and is impacted by the theories of ideology and power in which it was employed. The scholarship is not only sound, but truly pathbreaking in its treatment of various traditions, languages, and even its usage of extremely diverse source materials.” — Kevin Thompson, DePaul University

Marcelo Hoffman is an independent scholar who received his PhD in international studies from the University of Denver and the author of Foucault and Power: The Influence of Political Engagement on Theories of Power. He recently served as a Visiting Specialist Professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences of the State University of Campinas in Brazil.

Buy Here

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.

A Companion To Marx’s Capital: The Complete Edition, David Harvey (2018)

The radical geographer guides us through the classic text of political economy

In recent years, we have witnessed a surge of interest in Marx’s work in an effort to understand the origins of our current political and economic crisis.

For nearly forty years, David Harvey has written and lectured on Capital, becoming one of the world’s foremost Marx scholars. Based on his recent lectures, this current volume—finally bringing together his guides to volumes I, II and much of III—presents this depth of learning to a broader audience, guiding first-time readers through a fascinating and deeply rewarding text. A Companion to Marx’s Capital offers fresh, original, and sometimes critical interpretations of a book that changed the course of history and, as Harvey intimates, may do so again.

Here.

I Know There Are So Many of You, Alain Badiou (2018)

The history of humanity has only just begun. The Neolithic Revolution may have endowed us with unparalleled means of communication, subsistence, and knowledge acquisition. However, it is clear in today’s world that inequality, power hierarchies, and violence persist on a greater scale than ever before.

In these two lectures, delivered to the large number of young people who gathered in the Lycée Henri-IV and the École nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris to hear him speak, Alain Badiou argues that we are still firmly rooted in the Neolithic era, subjugated by the structures of political power – property, family, and state. He calls for a second revolution to restore to each person their freedom and agency. Through an analysis of recent attempts at political organisation, including the Arab Spring, Occupy, and Nuit debout, Badiou shows that progress toward this goal will only be achieved through an emphasis on sameness, not difference.

This rallying cry to the young from one of France’s most renowned radical thinkers will appeal to the many who read and follow his work, and to the millions of young people around the world who are passionate about redressing the deeply entrenched inequalities and divisions in our societies today.

Here.

Urban Political Ecology in the Anthropo-obscene: Interruptions and Possibilities (2018)

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Nice collection forthcoming in Dec 2018.

Urban Political Ecology in the Anthropo-obscene: Interruptions and Possibilities, Erik Swyngedouw & Henrik Ernstson, Eds., Routledge, 2018

This looks like a great paper on the importance of ecological value theory.

Excerpt from “Value, Nature & The Vortex Of Accumulation,” Jason Moore and Richard Walker

Why bother with value theory? When the classical political economists began to deploy a theory of value to understand the economy it was because the generalization of markets meant that commodity prices had come to be regulated by exchange. For the classicals, value was an objective foundation behind the vagaries of prices, and in a pre-industrial era of handicraft or “manufacture,” labour time was the obvious standard determining value. At the same time, however, they were engaged in fierce debates with opposing views of economy, state, and society. In these debates, the theory of value was mobilized as a weapon of social change, which is why it was called political economy (Varney 2012; Farber 2006).

Marx trod in the footsteps of his predecessors.The labour theory of value was the obvious starting point on a long analytic journey to uncover the workings of capital. For Marx, value was not just the basis of price determination, but the key to unlocking the source of profits, class struggle, and capital accumulation. Along the way, he made technical corrections to the classical theory of value to account for the greater complexity of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism (Marx 1977).1 Most of all, he made two great discoveries: how surplus value could arise in a system of equal exchange and how generalized value turned into capital accumulation.