It was shocking to read on August 31, 2018 the following headline in the British tabloid, The Sun “Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to a disgraced ex-UN official who ‘blamed Boston bombings on Israel.’” The “disgraced ex-UN official” referenced by The Sun is Professor Richard Falk1, a widely respected scholar of international law and a consistent advocate of human rights for all. The tabloid’s intent was to demonstrate that allegations of antisemitism directed at Corbyn were justified because he was praising a notorious ‘antisemite’.
by David Uahikeaikaleiʻohu Maile
Settler states criminalize protectors of Indigenous life, land, and water by labeling them ‘threats of violence.’ But, Indigenous protectors are exposing policing to be a precarious performance of settler sovereignty.
“The state reinforces a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed.” –Macarena Gómez-Barris
The State of Hawaiʻi was founded on land stolen from Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. To be clear, it is a U.S. settler state. It formed initially in the wake of the illegal U.S. overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. As the Republic of Hawaiʻi, it granted the unlawful annexation of the Hawaiian islands and transferal of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s national lands to the U.S. federal government in 1898. After being the Territory of Hawaiʻi, the U.S. federal government manufactured the “State of Hawai‘i” in 1959 and institutionalized it as the so-called fiftieth state, without consent from Kānaka Maoli. The legal, economic, political, and social processes for settlement of Hawaiʻi are ongoing to this very day. One pivotal way that settlement has continued is through the criminalization of Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. Particularly, the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i turns Kānaka ‘Ōiwi into criminals to be detained, incarcerated, maimed, removed, murdered, and disappeared. The criminalization of Indigenous people—from Hawai‘i to the Americas, Palestine, and elsewhere—is an eliminatory technique for colonial dispossession. As Kānaka Maoli have been labeled threats of violence to be criminalized for defending our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, water protectors of Mnisose, the Missouri River, have been also as a way to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Accusations of violence were used to unleash dog attacks, strip search women, bag heads in hoods, rip flesh from bone with water cannons. The assault on Indigenous life, land, and water at Standing Rock clarifies how, as Chickasaw scholar Jodi A. Byrd laments, “in the United States, the Indian is the original enemy combatant.” For legal historian Lisa Ford, the criminalization of Indigenous populations, across Oceania and America, is an original feature of settler sovereignty. She writes, “The exercise of jurisdiction over indigenous crime performs the myth of settler sovereignty over and over.” What Ford refers to as legal myth literary critic Mark Rifkin calls the empty sign of settler sovereignty, which, performed obsessively over and over again, reveals a hollowness in settler state power to be targeted and antagonized.
But how does the state materially reinforce a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed? In this essay, I suggest it is through the management of threats of violence. To support this argument, I explore settler state policing from the vantage of Kanaka Maoli opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a development project for the astronomy industry at our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea on Hawai‘i island. Analyzing three material objects—an emergency rule, bullet hole, and knee—I track how symbolic threats of violence are manufactured to obscure and exact concrete violences. But, what can an administrative law, image of a hole in a door, and body part of a police officer tell us about threats of violence? Indeed, these legal, visual, and fleshy objects are quite revealing. Interrogating discourses mingling through and amongst them, I argue ‘threats of violence’ is a discursive formation produced by the settler state and dispersed through its institutions of media and police. Weaving together scholarship from Critical Police, Hawaiian, and Indigenous Studies, I demonstrate ‘threats of violence’ maintains a dual function. First, suggesting that Kānaka Maoli who defend Mauna a Wākea from the TMT threaten acts of violence, and are violent threats themselves, rationalizes police intervention by the U.S. settler state. In other words, figurative threats of alleged violence from kia‘i, the guardians and protectors of our mountain, condone material violence against them by police. Second, ‘threats of violence’ defers and tries to erase not only the colonial violence animating the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i, and its deployment of police and their militarized interventions, but also the diversity of violence that TMT does. In what follows, I mine three material objects, offer two interventions, and conclude with one mo‘olelo—a story that lays bare how settler state policing of Kānaka Maoli is a performance of precarity.
by The Bucharest Anti-Racist Collective, Bucharest, Romania
Why is the US national prison strike important not for just for the Americas but also for global attempts to fight racialized capitalism?
This time of year, dubbed Black August, is the time when a prisoner-led movement should be at the forefront of our attention. This is probably the biggest prison strike in US history. Although not always visible, comrades in prison are “boycotting commissaries,” “engaging in hunger strikes which can take days for the state to acknowledge,” and “will be engaging in sit-ins and work strikes which are not always reported to the outside.” Yet, other frames which count as political protest and contestation fight for visibility in the global media. Tropes such as “the corruption of politicians” and “the urban carnival of political protest” work to highlight these politics branded as “resistance to power.”
by Alejo Stark
The 2016 prison strike was the most widespread coordinated action undertaken by prison rebels in the history of the United States. Today, we are in the midst of a second wave of such extraordinary actions. But what is the prison strike, the specter that haunts the racial capitalist state in an “age of riots”? To begin to answer this question, this essay thinks the relation between the prison strike and the recurrent crises of state and capital, showing that the terrain of struggle of the recent waves of prison strikes is partially produced by state budget cuts in the wake of the 2008-10 “financial” crisis. I then proceed to defend an abolitionist strategy of “disruption” of the reproduction of the carceral state apparatus. Lastly, I provide one possible framework that might help us think the relation between the prison strike and other contemporary flashpoints of Black struggle, such as the 2014 Ferguson rebellion.
This essay is adapted from Dan Berger and Toussaint Losier’s 2017 Rethinking the American Prison Movement (Routledge Press), a book that examines how incarcerated people have challenged prison conditions and other forms of inequality through strikes, uprisings, and other creative tactics, and in doing so have waged transformational struggles against America’s prison system. We republish it here on occasion of the nationwide prison strike, in the hopes that it will provide useful perspective on the ongoing struggles of our incarcerated comrades. To the end of prisons.
George Ciccariello-Maher and Jeff St. Andrews (Re-published on occasion of the prison strike, August 21st to September 9th, 2018. Originally published in Counterpunch. Download the pamphlet version here.) Note: We wrote this piece seven years ago, but for white supremacy, the past is never truly past, and nor is resistance to it. We […]
He was Mumia Abu-Jamal, an award winning journalist, a former member of the Black Panther Party and the most well-known political prisoner in the U.S. We were two Black women, who were members of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (CBMH), a grassroots organization formed by scholar-activist Johanna Fernandez in 2012 to bridge Mumia’s long standing support base in the movement to free political prisoners with a new generation of young people fighting to end mass incarceration. CBMH members had been placed on Mumia’s list of authorized visitors and serendipitously, me and Sophia’s names had been the first two to be cleared. For years we had occasionally written to Mumia and spoken to him on the phone when he called into conference calls, meetings or events. The opportunity to meet him in the flesh had pushed us out of our beds at 5am that chilly fall morning and jump started an unforgettable journey.
by Brooke Lober
Sexism, gendered harassment, and sexual assault are so common in our culture that they constitute norms; the phrase “rape culture” puts a name to this phenomenon. While assault and harassment remain rampant, a renewed sexual conservatism—consonant with the current right-wing power-grab and evacuation of the already ravaged social safety net—reproduces systematic inequity through an overt culture of misogyny, along with the privileging of marriage and monogamous partnership, heterosexuality, and sex/gender normativity. This hierarchy is produced at the expense of sexual outsiders including survivors of rape, abuse, and harassment, who lead the current public outcry on gender-based violence.
For the last forty years and more, feminist and queer movements have arisen to identify and resist the conditions of social subordination that are created through sex and gender hierarchy, while at the same time, these movements propose expansions of sexual freedom and gender self-determination. The current wave of protest and public speech against sexual violence, under the sign of #MeToo, while extraordinary, is not without precedent. But it offers a renewed chance to synthesize a popular framework for freedom through which we can work toward two longstanding feminist goals: freedom from sexual violence, and freedom to enact and celebrate all forms of consensual sexuality. Two feminist actions demonstrate these two aspects of sexual liberty. Since 1975, Take Back the Night marches and rallies have provided space for the outpouring of stories of sexual assault; and since 2011, Slutwalk has offered a site for the reclamation of self-determined sexuality as a public, political, and participatory act. While often emerging as opposed interests, freedom from violence and the struggle for sexual liberation are linked. As Adrienne Marie Brown writes, “Your strong and solid no makes way for your deep, authentic yes.” Feminist movements including women of color feminism, abolition feminism, and the sex-workers’ rights movement all offer possibilities for the integration of freedom from sexual coercion, and the freedom to engage in all consensual forms of sex. The radical imaginaries offered by these movements are crucial for activists who are now considering the next steps for countering omnipresent sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.
by Liz Mason-Deese. December in Buenos Aires is known for its propensity to heat up. It was the eruption of protests on December 19th and 20th sixteen years ago that overthrew the neoliberal government of Fernando de la Rúa. Those days saw the emergence of an unprecedented cross-class alliance as the unemployed and middle […]
by Shana L. Redmond. One hug at the beginning of the visit and one at the end. With the exception of holding hands on the way to the vending machine for his favorite snack, this was the extent of the physical contact that we were allowed. Two hugs. This is how I learned to […]
Max Haiven is Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University in Northwest Ontario and director of the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL). He writes articles for both academic and general audiences and is the author of the books Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons, The Radical Imagination: Social […]
by Sara C. Motta
We remain in body and spirit, despite the violence injected in our bones, hearts and wombs by the racist patriarchal capitalist-colonial system.
Our rage is a palpable and righteous response to this violence. But new worlds cannot be built on rage alone. Our struggle to move from survival to flourishing can be nurtured by and through decolonising love.
Caption this: white ladies hugging Black cops in pussyhats. It goes deeper than the multiculturalist perfection of absorbing a racialized threat as justification for the continued exploitation of those deemed unassimilable. A Black man donning a uniform and a pussyhat at once obscures and reveals the historical relation of the symbols he now sports. This is what an analysis of heteropatriarchal white supremacy must account for, and what carceral psychology cannot. Literally embracing cops illustrates the ongoing investment in police as “benevolent” masters over an abstract notion of safety that criminalizes people of color. A system rooted in racialized social control cannot get an antiracist makeover through a few public dialogues between cops and community members. As Tariq Khan writes, “Heartwarming Barbecues and Hugging Cops Ain’t the Solution.” This obsession with individual acts of peace-making with cops is the liberal face of carceral psychology.
This manifesto is a demand to finally have our voices heard, as well as a call to action to resist the neoliberal forces encroaching on our university that are increasingly present in higher education systems worldwide.
On May 17, 2017, I traveled with a group of students to the University of California Regents meeting in San Francisco. Originally, we had planned to speak in the “public comment” portion of the meeting, in protest against the Board of Regents and the UC Office of the President (UCOP). However, because of strict security measures, few of us spoke at all. Our experiences being silenced and policed are not unusual and reflect a decades-long struggle against corruption in the UC system, alongside worsening conditions of inequity, social injustice, and a lack of transparency.
Steven Salaita recently stated, “If an entire nationality/ethnic group/political concern is going to be systematically excluded from Western universities, then the sources of that exclusion need to be vigorously identified and condemned.” For those groups that have historically been the targets of systemic forms of discrimination, the burden of proof is often beyond reach in the public court of appeal. While there is evidence of denial of life opportunities, how the denial was effected remains obscure and not readily traceable.
Proceduralism—the idea that established criteria govern the validity of a procedure’s outcome—has been the rule in enacting institutional discrimination. As Salaita is painfully aware, proceduralism is the loophole for backdoor politics.
California State University Fresno using the pretext of procedural errors to terminate the Edward Said Chair in Middle East Studies (MES) search, at the very last hour, is a case in point. The search had been underway for many months: a large pool of applicants was reduced to a long-list of candidates. The long-list were vetted via video interviews and then reduced further to a final four candidates. The four candidates were each invited for a complex series of campus interviews. At the point when the Search Committee had submitted a rank ordered list of the finalists to the Dean for an offer to be made, the administration terminated the entire search, citing procedural errors as to how the Search Committee was formed.
As one of the finalists, I find the appeal to procedural details flagrantly disingenuous. Once the administration claimed ‘procedural errors’, it closed off any questioning of the validity of their decree. The burden of proof has, instead, been cast elsewhere, onto the Director of the Middle East Studies program and founder of the Said Chair, Vida Samiian. Professor Samiian resigned in objection to the abrupt cancellation, on grounds that it was not procedural errors but discrimination at play against the four finalists’ ethnic backgrounds and focus of scholarship. The finalists are all Palestinian and/or Arab-Americans. The context and grounds of her resignation are detailed in her publicly available resignation letter.