fractal ethnography

Month: October, 2011

the significance of life, the significance of death

I don’t have any judgments on the good or evil of Muammar Gaddafi’s life or death (and current contexts of the Obama Doctrine and campaign coming, of the Arab Spring and American autumn and the Global year coming, of massive arms proliferation and coming failures of international institutions).  There will surely be many relevant and consequential such judgments proffered, as History works to bend this year into a straight line of Progress and force some singular sense out of this complexity. Read the rest of this entry »


occupy – decolonize – detoxify

Parsing “occupation,” roughly, as historical, political, and personal challenges:

1) the violent, liberal version: we occupy this land in OUR name; we secure the borders; we keep expanding the borders; in our name, we sacrifice other peoples, the earth, other forms of life that do not fall under our charter; we occupy those spaces, violently re-shaping them in our image and our idea of freedom; “the occupation” is a space inside of which ‘democracy’ happens (the idea of freedom on our charter), but the space itself is made/secured/expanded through violence.

(Bibliography: ‘liberal,’ as in John Locke, Margaret Canovan, Bill Clinton; critique, thanks to Talal Asad).

2) the people’s version, the earth’s version: Read the rest of this entry »

nonviolence and the 99% at Showdown in Chicago

The Chicago Showdown in America on Monday was invigorating.  There were people of all ages and colors.  There were people organized from the unions, from schools, from organizing groups in the southside and northside.  There were so many families!  There was a drum line.  There were marshals to keep us organized.  There were Robin Hood kayakers.  There were slogans in both English and Spanish. Read the rest of this entry »

“occupation”: Wall St? Afghanistan? America?

Occupations and protests in the news:

1. Barack Obama: “So, yes, I think people are frustrated, and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works. Now, keep in mind I have said before and I will continue to repeat, we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow.”

2. Protests rage in Kabul, marking the ten-year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.  “Protesters chanted slogans including, ‘No to Occupation,’ and ‘Americans Out,’ while holding pictures of slain war victim.”  Today also begins planned DC protests to occupy Freedom Plaza marking both the anniversary of the war and the beginning of the 2012 austerity budget.

3. The climate movement stands with #occupywallst and plans a November 6 protest to encircle the White House to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, which climate scientists could say would lead to “game over.”

4. The continued impunity of Israeli settlers and the increasing violence in the occupied West Bank.

5. 12,000 prisoners hunger striking in California (40 years after the Attica prison rebellion) over inhumane conditions, importantly which include violent strategies and punishments to prevent political organizing.

6. This provocative message to #occupywallst from JohnPaul Montano, including: “I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land – never mind an entire society.”

7. A sign at the NY protests: “I lost my job and found an occupation.”

Read the rest of this entry »

thicker historical accounts: Steve Jobs and #occupywallst

The current convergences on our media feeds are related, if we can think beyond causally.  They are in thick relation, in the sense that their lives and accompanying narratives have unfolded in the same world, refracting through shared spaces, events, and characters.  We can train our attention to notice that the continuity of images on our screen is a montage (the breaks are not  random if accidental, the images relate structurally if not sequentially).  Both in the conditions by which events become possible and in our most fleeting or heartfelt reactions—there’s a lot of critical material.

Yikes, I’ll take a crack at these two (the early passing of Steve Jobs and the growing force of #occupywallst), but it’s a heavy shared empirical task:

1. “We wouldn’t have cellphones if it wasn’t for…” [a whole freaking lot of things]. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Cornell West calls it a ‘democratic awakening’

Provisionally, we’re waiting to see.  We must muster the energy to hold together the plurality that will no longer stand for the system.

The execution of Troy Davis was not just a “death penalty issue.”  There is no such thing as “death penalty issue.”  This was murder.  A systemic authorization of unwarranted cruelty and confinement.  He’s not the first, he won’t be the last; there are other innocent people sitting on death row.  What if they had pardoned him, and he was still sitting in prison?  #toomuchdoubt, would this be a cause for relief?  What about all the young men losing their minds in solitary confinement?  The Pelican Bay prisoners being punished for organizing for basic human rights?

Our imperative is not just moral, it is historical: there is no need for abstract debate on the right or wrong of any ‘issue.’  This is the situation.  This is what is happening, every day.

Read the rest of this entry »