Connor Sparrowhawk: the erosion of accountability and the administrative grotesque #JusticeforLB

reblogged from a guest post i did for justiceforlb.org @justiceforlb, with thanks to Dr George Julian for formatting and editing, and Sara Ryan for feedback.

Connor Sparrowhawk, the erosion of accountability and the administrative grotesque

We believe that everyone has the right to be unequal (Thatcher, 1975).

For me, it’s not a question of saying the NHS is ‘safe in my hands’. Of course it will be. My family is so often in the hands of the NHS. And I want them to be safe there. Tony Blair once explained his priority in three words: education, education, education. I can do it in three letters: NHS (Cameron, 2006).

Loving a disabled child
Put yourself for a moment into a mother’s shoes. You have a baby, you call him Connor, he is a beautiful, much loved and much wanted addition to your family. He has learning disabilities, and will later be diagnosed as autistic and epileptic. As he grows up you find the services provided for children like him are patchy, unconnected and difficult to access:

It’s a tough gig bringing up a disabled child. Yep. It shouldn’t be, I know. Appropriate, timely and sufficient support would make a huge difference. And a seismic shift in public attitudes (Sara Ryan, Boundaries, February 11 2013).

You are unrelenting in seeking support for your child, finding ways to navigate agencies and services making sure he can attend a caring school. You begin to write a blog about your life, random happenings, images and observations; it soon becomes focused on life with your son as he ‘comes to the end of his school life and stands, unaware, on the edge of a huge gap in adult services’. As Connor becomes an adolescent, some of his behaviours become difficult to manage. You reflect on what his adult life holds in store, about the kinds of support he will need to continue to live a good life, a happy life, a decent and dignified live. Leading up to his 18th birthday, Connor gets increasingly anxious and agitated; he is laughing less, then not at all. Things aren’t working, Connor is depressed, unhappy, needs help, you all need help. He has some violent outbursts, and “the crunch” comes when he hits a teaching assistant at school. Connor is referred to a small specialist short-term acute assessment unit where his needs can be evaluated and a future care plan put in place. This NHS unit, Slade House, is only 5 minutes from your home and you will be able to visit him every day. It feels like a good temporary solution, one which will allow your family to work with medical professionals to figure out best options and a future plan for your son.

107 days later

Our beautiful, hilarious, exceptional dude was found unconscious in the bath in the unit before a planned trip to the Oxford Bus Company. The psychiatrist from the unit who called me at work around 10am to say that LB had been taken to hospital, gave no steer he was pretty much dead. I asked her (as an anxiety induced after thought) if he was conscious when he left the unit in the ambulance. She said they’d cleared his airway but he hadn’t regained consciousness. She made no suggestion I should urgently go to the hospital or that I should go with someone. It was a care less call. Much like the ‘care’ he’d always experienced outside home and school.

I arrived at the hospital twenty or so minutes later, with a work colleague who (so, so kindly) insisted on coming with me. I was immediately faced with a LB has a ‘dead heart only kept alive by a ventilator’ story. This news generated my, to that point, unknown sounds.

I hugged him while he died.

Unspeakable horror.

Agonising pain.

We are now in a space I can’t describe (Sara Ryan, The Day After, July 5 2013).

#JusticeforLB
Connor Sparrowhawk (known as Laughing Boy, or LB) drowned in the bath in an NHS Assessment and Treatment Unit (Slade House) for adults with disabilities, on the 4th of July, 2013. Connor was 18 years old and had been in ‘the care’ of the unit for 107 days. The NHS trust (Southern Health) initially attributed his death to natural causes. Connor’s mother, Sara Ryan, a disability researcher, had already been writing a (then anonymous) blog – Mydaftlife– about family life with Connor. After he died she, along with family, friends and supporters, began a campaign to seek justice for him. An inquest into Connor’s death began on Monday 5 October 2015, and for the first time in British history a Coroners hearing, was live tweeted @LBInquest. The Coroner’s Jury found that Connor’s death was preventable, and that neglect had played a part: A two year fight to be told that an epileptic teenager with learning disabilities shouldn’t have been left unsupervised in a bath in ‘a secure and safe’ specialist unit. As a consequence of Connor’s death, and under considerable pressure from the #JusticeforLB campaign, NHS England commissioned Mazars, an auditing firm, to review ‘all deaths of people in receipt of care from Mental Health and Learning Disability services in Southern Health Trust between April 2011 and March 2015’. The findings of this report reveal that this particular trust had failed to investigate the deaths of more than 1,000 patients with learning disabilities or mental health problems.

Focusing on the deaths of learning disability uncovered by Mazars, and drawing on Chris Hatton’s careful analysis, from April 2011 to March 2015, there were in total 365 deaths of people with learning disabilities under the care of Southern Health learning disability services. That’s over 90 deaths of people with learning disabilities being cared for by Southern Health every year and 158 of these deaths were recorded as unexpected. However, Mazars also asks us not to trust this figure, as the recording systems used by Southern Health were ‘not working’, confused and in effect useless:

the deaths of people with a Learning Disability are not made visible in the recorded data presented to the Trust Board and to regulators and commissioners whether expected or not; natural or unnatural. … It is not therefore possible to rely on published information as an accurate measure of risk or death related incidents in the Trust. … The overall level of unexpected deaths has not been reported anywhere so there has not been an accurate reflection of the levels of deaths occurring amongst patients (Mazars, Independent review of deaths of people with a Learning Disability or Mental Health problem in contact with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, April 2011 to March 2015, December 2015).

The Mazars report couldn’t, in the absence of accurate data, account for the number of learning disabled people who had died in their care: It did reveal that nobody was accounting for them.

Notably, of the 158 deaths of people with learning disabilities which were recorded as unexpected, Southern Health only reviewed 68 of them, and only 1 of these got as far as what is called a Serious Critical Incident Review. As Hatton notes “In total, 99% of unexpected deaths of people with learning disabilities were not recorded on a national system that would have brought them to the attention of commissioners or the national level Care Quality Commission [the independent regulator of Health and Social Care in England]”. In short:

the Mazars review brings into the open what feels like a fundamental disregard for the lives of people with learning disabilities, even within organisations that are supposed to be supporting people (Chris Hatton, Heart of Darkness, 2015).

The #JusticeforLB movement has succeeded in exposing the most disturbing and penurious facts about the British states treatment of learning disabled people since the Winterbourne Inquiry (which detailed the criminal abuse by staff of patients at a privately owned care facility called Winterbourne View Hospital, near Bristol, but was only exposed by the work of uncover journalism supported by the BBC’s Panorama team). Since Connor’s death, many have come forward to speak about ongoing failures in care for learning disabled people, about neglect, about their struggles to get answers about the deaths of loved ones, and about their fears for the future in the face of seemingly permanent reductions in funding for adult social care. In the context of seemingly permanent austerity, Connor’s death raises fundamental questions about the future of welfare itself. Indeed, it is imperative that we understand #JusticeforLB’s struggle for accountability within the context of ‘the virtually impenetrable Health & Social Care Act (2013)’ (Youssef El-Gingihy, 2015: 3), which came into law three months before Connor’s death. As Jacky Davy, John Lister and David Wrigley note in their important account of the systematic demolition of the NHS, NHS for Sale: Myths, Lies and Deception (2015), one of the first casualties of the Health and Social Care Act (2013) was accountability itself. (see also Accountability in the NHS: Implications of the government’s health reform programme, Jo Maybin, Rachael Addicott, Anna Dixon and John Storey, The King’s Fund, 2011, Lords warn on ministerial accountability in NHS reforms, The Guardian, 2011).

Shouting “into an ideological headwind of gale-force strength” (Peck, 2013)
While we know why Connor died (he died of neglect), to have his death accounted for has proven more challenging. This is due in no small part to the baffling complexity of what we used to call ‘the National Health Service’ (NHS). In effect, the NHS no longer exists, or at least not in a form those who created it would recognize (see El-Gingihy, 2015).

The Kings Fund has produced an animated film which attempts to explain the structure of commissioners, boards, trusts and service providers who constitute the contemporary NHS since the most recent round of ‘reforms’ instituted by the collation Government in 2012:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/69224754

Today, the closet thing we have to central governance, and national level accountability, within the NHS is “a body” called NHS England, which receives the bulk of tax-payers funding to pay for the services we receive. NHS England is primarily a commissioning body, however, the bulk of actual commissioning work is devolved to local ‘Clinical Commissioning Groups’ (made up of Doctors, nurses, some members of the public ,‘health professionals’, and a significant number of private health company representatives and shareholders) who commission services from a range of ‘pubic’ and ‘private’ service providers. These changes in the government of the National Health Service where made, the public was told, in order to “liberate”, as the Health and Social Care Act (2013) put it, hospitals, GPs and local authorities to decide what kinds and levels of provision to make to the public.

In the case of Connor Sparrowhawk, the liberated services which had been ‘commissioned’ to care for him where provided by an NHS Foundation Trust called Southern Health, who are one of England’s largest providers of ‘community health, specialist mental health and learning disability services’. Mazars concluded that those in charge of overseeing the delivery of Southern Health services had catastrophically failed. In particular they noted that a ‘failure to bring about sustained improvement in the identification of unexpected death and in the quality and timeliness of reports into those deaths is a failure of leadership and of governance’. What are the consequences of this failure of leadership and governance? Who can be held to account in a context where the government has devolved its “constitutional responsibility” to provide NHS services? Where does legal and political responsibility lie? With those whose neglect contributed to Connor’s death? With Southern Health? With the CCG who commissioned their services? With NHS England? With the Secretary of State for Health? If all of these ‘bodies’ are in some part accountable, who can hold them to account, what are the systems for accounting?

the administrative grotesque 
In Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France. 1974-1975, Michel Foucault describes a system of neoliberal governmentality he calls the “administrative grotesque”, ‘in which the person to whom power is given is at the same time ridiculed or made abject or shown in an unfavourable light, through a number of rites and ceremonies’(Foucault, 2003, p. 13). In terms of the administrative bureaucracy faced by #JusticeforLB, we might think here of the rituals of meetings, minutes, memos, investigations, hearings, evidence, reports and the ceremony of public apology. What Foucault argues, is that these rituals often reveal those who wield power in an unfavourable light, even ridiculing them, but this has doesn’t have the effect of limiting their power but on the contrary and perversely, it strengthens and strangely further legitimates their hold on power. As Foucault puts it, the administrative grotesque, grants ‘a striking form of expression to the unavoidability, the inevitability of power, which can function in its full rigor and at the extreme point of its rationality even when in the hands of someone who is effectively discredited’ (Foucault, 2003, p. 13).

What we can learn from this is that practices of calling to account, activist practices engaged in revealing, showing, demanding and even disgracing bureaucrats, managers, mandarins, and politicians, can in effect support the very system they challenge. Hence the response of administrative and governmental bodies to #JusticeforLB and to the grotesque facts revealed by Mazars is: “It’s a Fair Cop”, you are right, we have failed, we haven’t done well enough, we are sorry, you have effectively shamed us, but we cannot, will not, relinquish any power as this will simply make the systems that we are reforming, it will make these failing systems collapse, and the more you needle us, the deeper and more extensive the rot at the heart of the systems of ‘care’ you expose are revealed, the more mandarins implicated in this administrative grotesque, the tighter, in fact, is our grip on power.

The ‘exercise of power through the explicit disqualification of the person who wields it’ speaks to those discredited by the Mazars report for whom there have been no consequences, but also offers useful clues as to the wider system of governmentality which have inexorably eroded systems of accountability, and with it the possibility for redress and justice, within the NHS and other increasingly fragmented and privatised public services and institutions (Foucault, 2003, pp. 35–6). There is, Thatcher liked to say, no alternative. What we face today is TINA on speed. As Jamie Peck puts it:

In contrast to the first major wave of cuts, back in the 1980s – when Thatcher, Reagan and others in the early vanguard of the neoliberal project were confidently predicting a much brighter upside (once the bureaucratic red tape and welfare-state impediments were removed), the political rhetoric of today is colored in much darker hues. Maybe we are still being told that there is no alternative, but now it is that there is no alternative to protracted pain and suffering, to permanent reductions in public services, even those once deemed ‘essential’ (Peck, 2013)

One concrete consequence of these permanent reductions in public services is the erosion of the ability of citizens to hold their Government to account. Or to put it more plainly, permanent reductions in public services necessitates the erosion of structures of accountability.

The hollow rituals of apology without accountability 
On December 10th 2015, the leaked Mazars findings provoked the tabling of an ‘urgent question’ to the Health Sectary Jeremy Hunt in the House of Commons. Hunt made a public apology to Sara Ryan and her family. Hunt thanked the #JusticeforLB campaign, and suggested he was grateful for their exposure of the failures at Southern Health.

In his 2005 book, DIRECT DEMOCRACY: An Agenda for a New Model Party, Hunt not only put forward a case for the privatisation of the NHS, but specifically argued for an end to government accountability for the welfare state. Hunt stated, “what is needed is not the accountability of services to central government – precisely the error of the Attlee settlement whose failed systems we still inhabit.” (Hunt, 2003: 5). Attlee was the Labour Prime-Minister (1945 to 1951) who oversaw the development of the post-war welfare state. His Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan, created the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948. Hunt’s political ambition, to rid the government, and specially the Department of Health, for accountability for failures in care, is precisely what has come to pass, though the establishment of NHS England, and ‘chaotic and ill-prepared’ local Clinical Commissioning Groups. Decentralised ‘accountability’, said Hunt, ‘must be direct, democratic and local’ (Hunt, 2005), in actuality devolved accountability, market-based accountability, exercises authority through obfuscation, a strategy which seems to centre on tiring out those who attempt to question and challenge.

The administrative grotesque which characterises the state we are in, marks a departure from Attlee’s radical vision of a Government for the people to government of the people by an impenetrable networks of vested interests.

The bones of hope
Judith Butler notes, ‘Many people think that grief is privatizing, that it returns us to a solitary situation, but I think it exposes the constitutive sociality of the self, a basis for thinking a political community of a complex order (Butler, 2004, p. 18). The counter-political community of #JusticeforLB has exposed the horror of the administrative grotesque. This has been no small undertaking, but has involved the harnessing of an arsenal of strategies and technologies: the #107days campaign and actions, the use of digital and off-line activist practices: twitter, blogging, vimeo, the #LBBill, the Justice Quilt, the Justice Shed, films, art exhibitions, the #JusticeforLB Symposium, picnics and flags. This is a movement grounded in grief and love, but moved, agitated, kept alive, by the promise of justice for people with learning disabilities, and the possibility of a different welfare future.

Refugees are not a crisis, global apartheid is the crisis

by Imogen Tyler and Jenna Loyd, also published on Open Democracy

This is my family.

Baba, mama, baby all washed up on the shore. This is 28 shoeless survivors and thousands of bodies.

Bodies Syrian, Bodies Somali, Bodies Afghan, Bodies Ethiopian, Bodies Eritrean. Bodies Palestinian.

Jehan Bsesio, ‘No Search, No Rescue’, 2015.

Ursula Le Guin’s dystopian novel The Dispossessed (1974) is set on a moon called Anarres, where an anarchist community established itself after breaking away from the capitalist mother-planet Urras. During a history lesson, children in Anarres are shown archival film footage of a beach on Urras, which speaks to the horrific visual iconography of contemporary Europe. The film’s voiceover provides a commentary upon the images in the film:

“Bodies of children dead of starvation and disease are burned on the beaches. On the beaches of Tius, seven hundred kilometres away … women kept for the sexual use of male members of the propertied class lie on the sand all day until dinner is served to them by people of the unpropertied class”.  A close-up of dinnertime; soft mouths champing and smiling, smooth hands reaching out for delicacies wetly mounded in silver bowls. Then a switch back to the blind blunt face of a dead child, mouth open, empty, black, dry. “Side by side,” the quiet voice … said. (Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed, 1974).

Reading the news this summer has involved negotiating similarly jarring images: people desperately paddling towards Mediterranean beaches on overloaded dinghies while tourists sunbathe amidst the flotsam of failed crossings, and the growing piles of discarded lifejackets. In contemporary Europe, previously segregated images of tourists and migrants are now captured within the same visual frame. ‘It is surreal’, Greek photojournalist Yannis Behrakis commented, witnessing the ‘migrants arriving on the beach each day among tourists and posh hotels’.

yannis3-reuters

This year alone, we know that at least 500,000 people have made their way to Europe by perilous sea-crossings, and an estimated 3000 of these have drowned en route. Let’s be clear, the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ is actually a crisis of international borders, neocolonialism, and imperialism. European border-control policies turn voyages to safety, freedom, and opportunity into treacherous and sometimes fatal journeys. As one British journalist notes “They were murdered. Actually, they were massacred. The policy stipulated they should be left to die. So they died”.

British news media perspectives on these Mediterranean beach scenes have swayed between apparently distinct poles of xenophobia and humanitarianism. For example, newspapers have featured many stories about family holidays ruined by ‘thousands of boat people from Syria and Afghanistan’ who have turned the Greek islands into ‘disgusting hell hole[s]’.

daily mail KOS.jpg

As families…relax on sun loungers on the beach, just a yards away scores of migrants have set up camp, sleeping on cardboard boxes with rubbish strewn everywhere. Anne Servante, a nurse from Manchester, had come to Kos expecting a relaxing break with her husband Tony, a retired plumber. Instead her summer break has turned into a nightmare as penniless migrants who are in Greece to claim asylum sit outside their restaurant and watch them eat.

In this story, we are directed to read the figures of ‘Anne’ and ‘Tony’ as respectable, hard-working people, while ‘the boat people’ and ‘penniless migrants’ living in a ‘rubbish strewn’ camp are rendered as ‘human waste’. This kind of language classifies and devalues, drawing distinctions between those whose lives are of value and those who are dispensable.

Alongside this genre of racist reportage, there are stories of ‘humanitarian tourist heroes’, like Sandra Tsiligeridu, ‘a former Greek model’, who rescued a Syrian man, Mohammed Besmar, on her way back from a snorkelling trip. Tsiligeridu ‘was cruising back to the Greek holiday island of Kos with family and friends […] when she spotted something out of place in the sea up ahead. A pair of hands appeared to be waving at her from the deep-blue waters of the Aegean Sea’. These adventure stories are concerned with relating the redemption of the European saviour. Journalists report Tsiligeridu as saying, “‘Before I met Mohammed I was angry and sad at the scenes I saw on television. I asked myself “Why do they come here?” “Now I understand the value of human life”. As Teju Cole wryly notes, ‘the white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening’.

These two genres of reporting (humanitarian/saviour and racist/xenophobia) often appear alongside each other in the same newspapers. Flipsides of the same coin they both represent and shape European perspectives on the current crisis at the borders, in which migrants are imagined as alien others, whether ‘deserving refugees’ or ‘illegal migrants’. In both registers the agency, knowledge, and collective capacities of people who have been dispossessed from their homes and livelihoods from European-backed wars and destructive economic policies.

illegals have landed.jpg

In response to overt and implicit anti-migrant racism in coverage of the life and death struggles taking place at Europe’s borders, there have been calls for more care in how this unprecedented exodus of people is described and represented. This has led to what one BBC news headline describes as a ‘battle over the words used to describe migrants’. In August, the Director of News at Al Jazeera issued a directive to journalists to stop using the term ‘migrants’ to describe people crossing into Europe, because it has ‘evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances’. Indeed, the consequence of the stigmatisation of the term “migrant” has been palpable in European news reporting, as Barry Malone, the online editor at Al Jazeera notes:

It is not hundreds of people who drown when a boat goes down in the Mediterranean, nor even hundreds of refugees. It is hundreds of migrants. It is not a person… It is a migrant. A nuisance.

The logic behind Al Jazeera’s decision is that the term ‘refugee’ has a specific international legal genealogy enshrined in the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. However, this rationale fails to recognise the fundamental erosion of both the legal status and popular meaning of the terms refugee and asylum-seeker in contemporary Europe, which has accompanied the tightening of legal migration channels. Since the 1990s European and other wealthy states have shirked their international obligations as signatories to the 1951 convention through creating new legal classifications that diminish refugee rights. For example, the small number of Syrian refugees which Britain has agreed to house will be granted ‘humanitarian protection status’ for five years, after which time they will either need to apply to remain longer, leave, or be forcibly deported. In other words, Britain is actually accepting no Syrian refugees at all.  As we write, it is unclear whether Germany will accept Syrians as refugees, or, like the UK, will also offer only time-limited protection and leave-to-remain.

Further, Europe and other wealthy countries in the world have implemented policies and programmes designed to keep refugees at bay so they cannot land to make asylum-claims. These include the proliferation of regional and transnational deterrence measures, such as the off-shoring of detention facilities and other nefarious arrangements with transit states, which ‘block safe and legal routes’ of travel in order to prevent people from arriving to make asylum-claims.  The Hungarian government, for example, ‘has invested more than 100 million euros on razor-wire fencing and border controls’ transforming itself into what Amnesty International describe as ‘a refugee protection free zone’.

In September the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) launched a #WordsMatter campaign in response to what the BBC is calling  ‘battle over the words used to describe migrants’.  In a film to accompany the campaign, celebrities explain the UNHCR distinction between a refugee and a migrant hinges on ‘choice’: a migrant chooses to move, while a refugee has no choice, is fleeing persecution. While the campaign is intended to destigmatise the term refugee, like the depictions of vacationing Europeans encountering refugees, the UN video depicts refugees as passive: they are both invisible and voiceless in this film, ventriloquized by celebrity talking heads. The false distinction between refugees who are ‘forced to leave’ and migrants who have ‘chosen’ to cross borders renders refugees ‘as dependent, apolitical non-agents’. The insistence on distinct differences between classes of people on the move mystifies the ‘historical forces, politics, power, hegemony, economic exploitation and colonialism’ that dispossess people from their homes and livelihoods. (Hence the call of self-organising refugees in Kurdistan to ‘Forget the UN!’.)

We can see the impact of this distinction between deserving and undeserving migrants in the fragile political consensus that something must be done for Syrians (authentic refugees), whilst those who have made perilous journeys from ‘forgotten conflicts’ in Africa (Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia), South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh), or the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania) are classified and criminalised as economic migrants. Hence the ‘growing concern among some migrants and aid officials that the new policies might unwittingly divide the migrants into two distinct classes—with two different kinds of welcomes’. What is actually happening is a more general ‘competitive downgrading of refugee protection standards’ in ways that sustain deeper global divides in wealth, rights, and well-being.

We should be wary of those who insist, in the words of British historian and journalist Tim Stanley, that ‘it is down to the state in which they have arrived to define what they are’. The ‘what’ in this sentence is chilling, a reminder of the ways in which the bureaucratic classification of people operates through what Alexander Wehelyie terms ‘racial assemblages’: the socio-political processes through which humanity is disciplined into ‘humans, non-quite-humans, and nonhumans’ (2014: 8).

The school children on Anarres are not shocked by the film they watch. It transpires that this is a tired lesson and they speculate amongst themselves about whether life on Urras is as ‘disgusting, immoral [and] excremental’ as their teachers would lead them believe. Yet, when the protagonist of The Dispossessed visits Urras as an adult, he discovers precisely the world of ‘commonplace horrors’ he was taught about as a child. So horrific is the inhumanity he witnesses, that he has no language, no words, with which to comprehend and describe it. The lesson here is that when the violence of inequality becomes ordinary, we can no longer comprehend it or imagine alternatives. For Europeans, photographs and television footage of migrant arrivals, of rescues at sea, of overloaded boats, discarded life-jackets, lost objects and dead children on Mediterranean beaches are rapidly becoming commonplace horrors.

The political response to build higher walls and fences, to build prisons and camps, and accelerate deportations will only exacerbate the vulnerabilities faced by 60 million displaced people, that is ‘1 in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum’ (UNHCR, June 2015). The movement of people is not the problem, the violence of global apartheid is the problem. Global apartheid more accurately describes the refugee crisis we are witnessing. Global apartheid, a language of apart-ness, relies on stigmatization and racialization to produce seemingly natural differences between ‘them’ and ‘us’. This language operates in tandem with practices of physical segregation, fortification and militarization of boundaries, detention and expulsion.

In conclusion then, we need to fight for refugee rights, but, taking a cue from the political allegories of Le Guin’s science fiction we also need to nurture more radical alternative perspectives on this crisis in order to see its strangeness and its horror. As Yanis Varoufakis put in on a recent television debate about the refugee crisis in Europe, ‘looked at from space…borders are an absurdity’ (BBC Question Time, 24 Sep 2015).

Underclass Ontologies: extract from a review essay by Samuel Strong

Underclass ontologies (extracted from a review essay in Political Geography, 2015)
by Samuel Strong @samuelrstrong

“There’s a lot to be said about euthanasia regarding certain members of todays society. We are creating a bigger problem with these feral excuse for humans. We complain about immigrants and rightly so but we now have a under class who are of no use to society whatsoever. They are just parasites feeding off the workers of this country”

[sic.] (Rob, Durham) ( Parry, 2014).

The venomous hatred exhibited by the above quotation illustrates much about an underclass ontology in which poor people are loathed and dehumanised. The comment is from an article on the Daily Mail’s website covering the recent television series Benefits Street, and whilst it represents an extreme view, it received a majority of up-votes suggesting a level of receptivity amongst other website users. For those unfamiliar with the show, Benefits Street is a documentary series purporting to reveal everyday life on James Turner Street, Birmingham, where a supposed ninety-percent of people claim benefits. Over the course of five episodes, film-crews not only follow several benefit-claimants as they engage in criminal behaviour, swill lager and buy drugs, but also commit significant screen-time to those not on benefits. The resulting footage was branded ‘poverty pornography’ in parts of the press, sparking widespread outrage for misleading both residents and audiences and for triggering death-threats against the cast ( Bingham, 2014). Furthermore, I propose that this self-described “observational documentary series revealing the reality of life on benefits” has acted as a conduit for a broader set of ‘underclass ontologies’.

Zygmunt Bauman (2011) begins “Collateral damage: Social inequalities in a global age”with two metaphors: a measuring of the strength of human societies through their most vulnerable points as with the carrying capacity of a bridge, and of a fuse in an electrical system failing as the weakest point when the circuit overreaches its potential. The chapters cover topics somewhat clumsily tied to the theme of ‘collateral damage’ – those deemed ‘unavoidable losses’ of the progress of liquid modernity. Altogether, the text is a bricolage of the writer’s oeuvre and for this reason reads like a set of thought-pieces rather than a sustained argument, leaving it to the reader to pull together Bauman’s contribution to this debate on underclass ontologies.

Bauman (2011:3) describes the underclass as an externality inhabiting a below-ness without a function (as in working-class) or position (as in upper-class), and a grouping which “may be ‘in’, but it is clearly not ‘of’ the society”. It is this alterity of people and places which justifies the depoliticisation of their material and symbolic impoverishment and transformation into problems of law and order. Thus, it is an ontology which builds consent for the coercive practices of the neoliberal state, an argument Bauman develops through a distinction between market-driven insecurities (unemployment, repossession) and alternative insecurities (threats to personal-safety, terrorism).  Bauman (2011:54) suggests that because the neoliberal state increasingly retreats from intervening in market-driven insecurities, its “hopes to restore its lost monopoly on the chances of redemption must be artificially beefed up, or at least highly dramatised to inspire a sufficient volume of fears”. However, by separating these two insecurities, Bauman underplays their complex interplay. Continuing with the underclass example, insecurity is generated not simply through Bauman’s description of threat to personal-safety, but also through the political-economic threat to the majority of having to support an undeserving population of ‘market failures’. Crucially, narratives constructing social problems as issues of law and order do not place them outside of the market. Following from Bernard Harcourt (2011), markets and their policing are intertwined – states do not retreat from markets and let them function ‘naturally’. Rather, these economically generated forms of insecurity are regulated by a carceral archipelago. By embracing this illusory separation, Bauman depoliticises not only the link between economic and alternative forms of insecurity, but also the very operation of markets themselves.

In “Punishing the poor: The Neoliberal Government of Insecurity” Wacquant’s (2009) avoids these pitfalls by tracing the (re-)emergence of the prison in a dialectical relationship with viewings of poverty drawn together here as underclass ontologies. Crucially, “the penalization of precariousness creates new realities … tailor-made to legitimize the extension of the prerogatives of the punitive state according to the principle of the self-fulfilling prophecy” ( Wacquant, 2009:35). According to the author, these notions become embodied in condensed ‘castaway-categories’ deployed to maintain these new realities of social insecurity upon which consent is constructed. For instance, Wacquant analyses how consent for the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act in the USA and ‘Megan’s Law’ (the Sexual Offender Act of 1994 which makes the publication of the identity and address of registered sex-offenders a legal necessity) were galvanised through the mobilisation of fears of the black welfare queen and the predatory paedophile. By linking underclass ontologies with policy and ideology, Wacquant conceptualises a ‘centaur state’ in which a liberal head is mounted upon an authoritarian body, practicing laissez-faire upstream but reacting brutally to social inequalities through a punitive downstream.

Therefore, the writer is outlining the reduction of poor people to objects devoid of politics which simultaneously act as conductors for the establishment of consent for coercive policies. However, Wacquant (2009:xix) himself is guilty of this self-same process, admitting in his prologue to “one-sided and overly monolithic” scholarship. As he is aware then, his monograph treats the poor as objects upon which the successful operation of power is pre-supposed.  Wacquant (2009:xix–xx) justifies this approach as an attempt to highlight a single process selectively – an over-simplification that is apparently “an unavoidable moment in the analysis of the surge of the penal state in the neoliberal age and a cost well worth paying if it gets students and activists of criminal justice to pay attention to germane developments in poverty policies”. However, this logic assumes two things. Firstly, that one has to produce a simplified account of power to engage readers. Secondly, it places the means of altering and resisting these policies outside of the people and domain in which they occur. It removes poor people from the realm of the political, suggesting instead that they are unable to challenge the apparently top–down processes of neoliberalisation ( Castree, 2006). In a similar fashion to these underclass ontologies themselves, this approach presents the poor as voiceless, devoid of agency and as wanton cogs in the neoliberal machine.

Bauman (2011:152) likewise renders poor people aphonic, describing the underclass as “stripped of all socially produced and socially accepted trappings and marks that elevate mere biological life to the rank of a social being … The underclass is not merely an absence of community; it is the sheer impossibility of community”. Removing people from sociality occludes their ability to communicate and exercise politics, thus denying their subjectivity. Therefore, it is ironic that elsewhere  Bauman (2011:58) notes that the “denial of subjectivity disqualifies the selected targets as potential partners in dialogue; whatever they might say … is a priori declared immaterial”. Both Wacquant and Bauman describe processes rendering poor people voiceless, yet their analysis remains within this same ontological mode. Furthermore, by pre-supposing the successful operation of these neoliberal transformations, instances of contestation are ignored.  Bauman (2011:153) presents underclass neighbourhoods as ‘Hades’ spaces – as “wilderness beyond which there can only be a void, a bottomless black hole” rather than an emergent, porous boundary through which people slip and climb through. To echo  Castree (2006), Wacquant and Bauman present homogenous top–down studies of power as seemingly ‘necessary illusions’. In so doing, neither author restores subjectivity to marginalised groups, but rather reproduces these underclass ontologies.

This is why Imogen Tyler’s Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain is a singular contribution to this debate. Not only does she interrogate the presentation of impoverished people as objects devoid of politics, but also builds a conceptual apparatus through which their politics are paramount to understanding operations of power. By focusing on the lived experience of ‘being made abject’, Tyler enriches her study with the voice of the subject so starkly absent elsewhere. Rather than approaching neoliberalism as a set of market-based policy developments (an important aspect of course), Tyler (2013:5) adds to this analysis “a thick social and cultural account of neoliberalism as a form of governance – concentrating in particular on the mechanisms through which public consent is procured for policies and practices that effect inequalities”.

This approach overcomes the false externalities in Bauman’s depiction of ‘underclass’, which are mired in the conflation of being spoken-for and being invisible. Bauman (2011:57) conceptualises “contemporary menaces … as a rule distantly located, concealed and surreptitious, seldom close enough to be witnessed … for all practical purposes invisible”, which misses Tyler’s (2013:20) vital observation that underclass ontologies hyper-visibilise the abject body, meaning “waste populations are in this way included through their exclusion”. Returning to Levinas, rather than becoming empty pieces in a hollow underclass ontology, abject figures signify the boundaries of our ethical norms of responsibility and of the political. As with Wacquant’s linkage between the perception and punishment of poverty, for  Tyler (2013:47) ‘national abjects’ are “employed to legitimise neoliberal forms of governmentality by effecting insecurity within the body politic”. Tyler’s conceptual approach fruitfully draws together distinct examples of such ‘national abjects’ ranging from protesting asylum-seeking mothers, the Dale Farm evictions in 2011 and the English riots of the same year. As she remarks early in her monograph, “the voices of resistance against the abjectifying logics of neoliberal governmentality are growing louder” ( Tyler, 2013:2). Revolting Subjects restores subjectivity to poor people by re-conceptualising the intimate connections between abjection, the neoliberal state and the “ontological obliteration of personhood” ( Tyler, 2013:76).

Central to this re-conceptualisation are underclass ontologies. All of the texts under review draw attention to the linkage between the viewing of poverty and the neoliberal state, illuminating, with varying degrees of success, how thoroughly depoliticised the nexus between the viewing and response to poverty has become. As  Rancière (2007:11) states, “politics is the art of suppressing the political … Depoliticisation is the oldest task of politics, the one which achieves its fulfilment at the brink of its end”. The demarcation of an underclass without politics removes poverty from its historical and geographical context, serving to re-nature the intensely political processes and spectacles of power shaping these ontologies. Without these contexts, the violent sorting of people and capital through markets is perceived as a natural order, with those appearing to deviate from the norm not only viewed as individual market failures, but as moral failures for exiting this natural system.

Benefits Street

This review now turns to discussing Benefits Street as a springboard for examining the forging of these new realities of the deserving and undeserving through one particular distinction – the abject and the aspirational. The programme relies profoundly upon synecdoche and metonymy in its showcasing of revolting bodies on primetime television, which reached around five million people each week. Its dramatis personae include both exemplars and effigies – incorporating the ‘idler’ (White Dee, Danny), the pathologised ‘substance-abuser’ (Fungi, Sam), the ‘benefit fiddler’ (Mark, Becky), the ‘entrepreneurial citizen’ (Smoggy, Tich), the ‘hardworking immigrant’ (Marius, George) and the ‘exposed child’ (Gerrard, Callum). Thus, for a documentary claiming to portray “life on benefits”, the devotion of such significant screen-time to people in work exposes the underlying intention to accentuate any deviations from the norm.

Idle bodies spill-out spatially and metaphorically from the houses of James Turner Street onto mattresses, sofas, doorsteps and garden-walls. As one ‘idler’, Danny, states: “I’m capable of getting a job y’know. I’ve got qualifications coming out of my f**king ears. I’m just being a lazy d**khead”, instead earning money shoplifting (episode one, 24:45). Contrastingly, we see door-to-door salesman Smoggy (the ‘50p man’) displaying an entrepreneurial aspiration to turn the poverty of the area into a means of making a living. Furthermore, Smoggy’s endeavours “make a difference for people, that’s my reward … Me helping them is them helping me” (episode one, 24:30). Importantly, by segueing these two people in the sequencing of the show, producers also segue acts of revulsion and admiration against each other. Whilst Danny is a figure of hatred for his laziness and criminality, audiences may approve of Smoggy as a successful neoliberal and moral subject (Dardot & Laval, 2013).

The second episode of the show focuses on two sets of Romanian migrants living in material conditions noticeably worse than those bêtes noires on benefits. As Marius summarises in episode two, “we’re poor but poverty isn’t the issue here. The issue is love. It’s the love of our families that drives us to work” – an ambition to secure the futures of their children viewers may identify with (19:00). Alternatively, most ‘white’ characters on benefits appear to skive these parental responsibilities, as illustrated by White Dee urging her daughter to sign-on for unemployment allowance: “just imagine if you stay at home all day and get money and not have to do anything for it” (episode four, 2:00). In this material iconography, aspiration and abjection are codified by ‘race’. Building on Edward Said’s critique of the mutual constitution of people, place and difference through oppositional registers of ‘race’, it is deviations from the norm which are again distinguished. Thus, the normative interpretation of ‘dark’ and foreign bodies as the ‘wretched of the earth’ makes their ambition all the more outstanding: they strive despitethis norm of being abject. Furthermore, that these aspiring characters escape from the chains of place despite this racialised standard weakens the legitimacy of more nuanced, geographical explanations of poverty. Presentation of these strivers establishes the logic that if one person can overcome poverty, why cannot everybody else? – it encourages the audience to perceive the abject person’s failure as individual failure, thus reducing poverty to a self-imposed, depoliticised condition. The rubbish filling James Turner Street furthers these racialised codifications. On one hand we see idle bodies wallowing in filthy, unhygienic conditions (such as the repeated image of Mark and Becky lazing on a thrown-out sofa), and on the other those turning this waste and scrap metal into a livelihood (Tich, George’s family). In the language of Bauman, audiences are viewing the wasted lives of capitalism, and yet through its sequencing of the distinction between abject and aspirational, Benefits Street invites viewers to revile these ‘filthy white’ bodies not as wasted, but as willing pieces of waste itself ( Tyler, 2008).

This distinction is also evident in the pathologised substance-abuser rarely seen without lager and cigarettes in-hand, embodied by Fungi, Danny and his companions whom White Dee describes as “Mr N*bhead, Mr Crackhead, Mr P**shead” (episode one, 18:30). We witness Danny spending money from his shoplifting-spree on drugs whilst bemoaning his inability to “provide for [his children] new trainers, new tracksuits, the latest gear” (episode one, 25:30). This tends to evoke disgust on two levels: that he equates his paternal role with providing his children with the latest fashion, and secondly that he uses this parental responsibility as a justification for the criminality funding his drink and drugs (a stark contrast with Marius living in self-imposed squalor to help provide for his family).

The drunkard substance-abuser is metonymic for a pathologised population writ large. Following from Foucault (1989), pathologisation justifies certain operations of power which confine, control and mark these bodies as threats to the population. Crucially, this spreads from the body of the pathologised and into an archipelago of institutions seeking to intervene against this errant figure. For Wacquant, this process of pathologisation is now being applied to the poor more generally, constructing an abject population of market and moral failures in turn justified by and constituting the neoliberal state’s punitive practices warehousing and surveilling the poor. During Benefits Street, this punishment of the poor is both explicit, such as Danny’s arrest and Mark and Becky’s benefit fraud, and implicit through the narrator’s avowal that “at the far end of James Turner is Winson Green Prison. To some on the street, it’s a second home” (episode one, 11:00).

The show’s reduction of people on benefits to pathologised objects means that its children appear especially exposed. As the narrator states over images of Fungi swilling lager and talking about stabbings, “kids learn a lot about life from the grown-ups of James Turner Street” (episode three, 21:30). Repeated imagery of children playing on mattresses in the street, climbing over fences and attempting to jump from windows draws attention to ‘poor’ parenting in both senses of the word, particularly the failure to maintain distinctions between safe private and dangerous public spaces. The inherent gendered organisation of space into public and private spheres means that the exposure of children to danger in unregulated public and poorly protected private space results in mothers in particular perceived to be failing (McDowell, 1999). With the presence in the domestic sphere of Mark and other unemployed men, this gendered division is challenged – as Tich notes: “In Africa, if you don’t work you don’t eat. But here men they sleep and look after the kids” (episode three, 27:00). This racialised and feminised imaginative geography portrays these abject men as stuck in private space and polluting public space with their deviance and pathologies, whilst simultaneously re-masculinising their aspirational counterparts.

As Cindi Katz argues (2006:110), “children … are a ready canvas on which all manner of social phenomena and anxieties are inscribed, only to be discovered there and used to naturalise one thing or another.” The corporalisation of vulnerability in the figure of the child is sequenced during the show in a fashion evoking two particular gendered registers of fear around poor parenting – or to use Katz’s terminology, ‘terror talk’. Firstly, anxiety arises from a neo-Malthusian, political-economic concern for the reproduction of an underclass of benefit-dependent groups mired in inter-generational joblessness. The homogenised figure of the poor, sexually-excessive welfare mother – which Tyler (2008)describes as the ‘chav scummy-mummy’ – reproducing without the means or will to support her offspring condenses this fear and forges consent for the removal of any ‘incentives’ (housing and income support, child benefit) for poor mothers to reproduce. Secondly, it also dramatises a political-ecological fear around social reproduction. Katz (2001) traces the shifting spatiality of social reproduction through its increasing privatisation both in terms of marketisation (privileged women shifting the burden of childcare onto poorer women) and confinement to private spaces. Crucially, the environment in which social reproduction takes place shapes fears of its bodily outcomes. Thus, the fecklessness and deviance on James Turner Street raises anxieties stimulating the revulsion of mothers unable or unwilling to protect their children from these pathologising spaces.

Conclusion

The material iconography of Benefits Street can be interrogated through the key theme of underclass ontologies found in all the texts under review. Returning again to Levinas, this short discussion has revealed the extent to which the exteriority of the Other pierces the interiority of the Self. Whilst the categories of deserving and undeserving are in opposition, they are reliant upon each other to signal not only deviations from the norm but also the boundary between the two. The everyday politics of poverty are not distinguished through this Manichean lens – rather, each individual is to some extent both a skiver and a striver. What is crucial to this delineation is whether or not that individual is able to express their own politics and morality, thus becoming a political subject rather than an object devoid of agency to be disgusted by or admired.

William Bunge (2011:240) described his seminal monograph Fitzgerald as “a call to action, not merely an exercise in abstraction. Every adult should find himself enraged somewhere in this volume”. If the objective of political geography is to intervene throughresearch and writing, then the link between reading and revolt is paramount to assessing the contribution of texts to the discipline. Whilst all three pieces enrage the reader and contribute to this debate of underclass ontologies, both Bauman and Wacquant partially reproduce this depoliticisation rather than challenge it. In contrast, Tyler’s insightful monograph invites the reader to conceptualise anew how these highly symbolic distinctions are mobilised and contested in order to constitute demarcations between those with and without politics. By engaging with Benefits Street and its material iconography deliberately re-assembling this distinction between skivers and strivers, this short piece has foregrounded the need to study the construction and consequences of these underclass ontologies. This leaves us with the real issue, then, which is how to turn the discipline of political geography into a more explicitly public project – one which, to follow Bunge, enrages us by enriching the emergent forms of counter-narrative contesting these underclass ontologies in the public commons.

No Justice, No Peace: From Tottenham to Baltimore

No Justice, No Peace: From Tottenham to Baltimore

Imogen Tyler, Lancaster University and Jenna Loyd, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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(first published http://theconversation.com/from-tottenham-to-baltimore-policing-crisis-starts-race-to-the-bottom-for-justice-40914)

West Baltimore, 8.39 am April 12: Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, stood on the street talking with friends. Police officers approached on bicycles and made “eye contact” with Gray, who then attempted to leave. The police chased him and video footage shot on neighbours’ mobile phones shows police holding Gray face-down on the pavement. One witness described how an officer pressed a knee into Gray’s neck as he was handcuffed, while another bent his legs upwards: “They had him folded up like he was a crab or a piece of origami”.

By the time the police van arrived with Gray at the Western District police station some 45 minutes later “he could not talk and he could not breathe”, according to a police officer quoted in the Baltimore Sun report. It was only then that police called medics who transferred him to hospital. Doctors determined that Gray had three fractured vertebrae and a damaged larynx, his spinal cord 80% severed at his neck. Gray died of his injuries a week later on April 19.

“No Justice, No Peace” has echoed through the streets as thousands of people have protested Gray’s death. Protest marches on April 25 and walk-outs of students on April 27 were followed by what some call rioting, others unrest or rebellion. Officials and mainstream news coverage have decried property destruction, including burning of police cars, and theft.

Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, declared that “violence will not be tolerated” and the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, called city residents “lawless gangs of thugs roaming the streets” before declaring a state of emergency, suspending habeas corpus, implementing a 10pm curfew, and deploying National Guard troops.

Crisis over policing

Gray’s death at the hands of the police was the latest to provoke protest. Natalie Finegar, the deputy district public defender said that it was a “daily occurrence” for her clients to describe some sort of mishandling by the police. These range from “jump outs” where officers spring from patrol cars and shake down a suspect, to serious assaults. The city of Baltimore has paid out more than US$5.7m in undue force lawsuits between 2008 and 2011.

According to Baltimore resident Kane Mayfield the conflict has:

been mis-characterised pretty much by mainstream sensationalists who come down here to soak up the angel dust of civil unrest and sell it to white America. It’s fun. I get it. You know? Look at them. Black rage. It’s nice.

But property destruction is not equivalent to death – particularly in a context where so many black people are killed and harmed by police with near impunity. It is telling that there are no comprehensive data on homicides by police in the US. A partial snapshot from recent FBI data reveals a white police officer killed a black person in a “justifiable homicide” about twice a week between 2005-2012.

Anger over police treatment of black suspects.
EPA/Andrew Gompert

The protests communicate a legitimation crisis over policing in the United States. A cycle of renewed dissent against state racial violence has become increasingly visible since July 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. “Black Lives Matter”, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”, “I Can’t Breathe” and “Shut It Down” have become protest slogans after the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City.

Stop-and-search

Across the Atlantic, “No Justice, No Peace“ was also the cry of protesters gathered to hear a verdict of “lawful killing” in the case of the police shooting of Mark Duggan in London, 2011.

Duggan’s death sparked the most extensive riots in recent British history. As with recent events in the US, the English summer riots of 2011 raised serious concerns about policing within inner-city communities. The findings of the 2011 Guardian-LSE research project, Reading the Riots: Investigating England’s summer of disorder, suggested that the riots were motivated by a sense of “poverty, injustice and a visceral hatred of the police”. Some 73% of people they interviewed said they had been stopped and searched by the police at least once in the previous year.

Time and again, anger over perceived misuse of “stop-and-search” has been one of the causes of rioting in Britain. In 1981, riots in Brixton sparked three months of rioting by black, Asian and white youths across most of the country’s inner-cities. The Brixton uprising was triggered by Operation Swamp 81, which saw the police employ ancient vagrancy legislation, called “sus laws” (suspected person) laws’, in a mass stop-and-search operation.

Britain’s SUS laws in action – to often if you are black or ethnic minority.
David Parry/PA Wire

The Scarman Report into the causes of the 1981 riots stated that the black population of Brixton had been subject to “disproportionate and indiscriminate” policing. Sus laws were repealed yet stop-and-search substantially increased.

An estimated 1m stop and searches are carried out in the UK each year and in 2009-2010, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission: “Black people were stopped 23.5 times more frequently than white people and Asian people 4.5 times more frequently.

In 2014, a revised code of conduct on stop-and-search was introduced; recent figures show a 12% reduction, but more radical reform is required.

Race to the bottom

Stop-and-search is a day-to-day expression of violent relationships between police and communities. People interviewed by StopWatch detail the enduring stigma affected by these policing practices. Police harassment of black citizens communicates authoritative messages about the place of ethnic minorities in society.

Racial discrimination intersects with other inequalities: poverty, rising economic inequality (between the richest and the poorest and between ethnic groups), joblessness (in 2012 the unemployment rate for black youths in the UK was 55.9%, double that of their white peers), high levels of incarceration, inadequate housing, unequal access to education and healthcare.

Fifty years since the civil rights movement and the ostensible end of state-sanctioned discrimination, austerity and welfare retrenchment has created even deeper divides. A recent special issue of Feminist Review on the politics of austerity details the multiple ways in which “divides of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and class” are intensifying. The UK and US are relying on the same forms of policing to resolve the resulting economic and political conflicts. Racial and economic inequality fuelled the riots in London 2011 and the same thing has sparked the unrest we see in Baltimore and other US cities today.

Imogen Tyler is Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University.
Jenna Loyd is Assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Feminist Activisms Summer School 19-22nd May 2015, Centre for Gender & Women’s Studies Lancaster University

Social Abjection

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Feminist Activisms: Feminist Media and Cultural Studies Summer school/ MA course, Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, Lancaster University 19th-22nd May 2015

Enroll online here http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/sociology/event/5178/

Campus Map http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/maps/campus.pdf

Programme At a Glance

Tues 19th May Faraday SR3

9–‐10 Registration and welcome

10–‐1 Session 1: Introduction to feminist media and cultural studies: with Anne-Marie Fortier and Maureen Mcneil

1–‐2 Lunch (self–pay)

2–‐5 Session 2: Media Activisms: A workshop with Debra Ferreday

7.30 Dinner location The Borough (Lancaster city centre, £20 per head, self-pay)

Wed 20 May Faraday SR3

10-1: Session 3: Think before you pink? Feminist health activism: a workshop led by Celia Roberts with Vicky Singleton

Lunch 1-2 (catered)

2-5: Session 4: Opening up (In)Security: Feminist activism against wars on the Other led by Lucy Suchman and Imogen Tyler

7:30: Documentary Screening: ‘Women, Art, Revolution’ at the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster City Centre…

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Professor Sarah Green: Comments on Imogen Tyler’s Sociological Review Annual Lecture “Classificatory Struggles: Class, Culture and Inequality in Neoliberal Times”

Professor Sarah Green: Comments on Imogen Tyler’s Sociological Review Annual Lecture “Classificatory Struggles: Class, Culture and Inequality in Neoliberal Times”

20 February 2015

[You can hear my lecture here and Sarah’s spoken response here as well. The full and extended text the lecture was based upon will be published as an article in a forthcoming issue of the Sociological Review, thanks to Sarah for letting me print her response to my lecture here and for her thoughtful engagement with my work]

My immediate thoughts after reading Imogen Tyler’s text for this lecture was: of course. It’s obvious, now that you mention it. The pornography of Benefits Street is about blaming the poor, or more accurately, particular individuals who are poor; blaming them for the problems created for them by the rich. We all know, – don’t we? – that the poor continue to be shafted, in full view of the nearest television screen.

Yes, we know. We do. But few mention this obvious and self-evident point; most act as if they didn’t know – which is an act of cynicism, like the one Navaro-Yashin observed in her study of Turkish people’s attitudes towards their always already corrupt governments (Navaro-Yashin 2002). The practice of statecraft in Turkey, as well as people’s responses to it, Navaro-Yashin says, is about cynicism that never becomes unconscious through constant repetition, as Zizek thinks it does; Navaro-Yashin argues cynicism in this case is a conscious, practical solution to a practical problem. People act as if they didn’t know the state is corrupt because – well, because acting in any other way is likely to land you in trouble. As Tyler mentioned, everyone, or almost everyone in the UK, is living a more precarious life these days than they used to do. This adds a twist to the famous comment that Upton Sinclair is credited with making many years ago:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Tyler tracks an intensification of that kind of difficulty in people’s lives, that provocation for people to be cynical: the strong sense of precarity that most people feel nowadays makes it sensible, or at least safer, or so it seems, for many to just walk on by, looking anywhere, especially at the television screen, so as to avoid looking at what is staring at them in the face.

Tyler also notes that the effort to remove all the names attached to this obvious shafting – class, inequality, oppression – has been palpable, and as Tyler outlines, for some politicians such as Tony Blair, it was an explicit effort, right in the open, no disguise or hiding needed. Tyler points out that the emperor is wearing no clothes: many would like pretend that he is wearing clothes, to act as if they did not know he is naked; it is easier that way. But she also notes that she is not the only one doing the pointing: there are some people out there, many even, who are holding up signs, in an act of rage, or frustration or a sense of humiliation, trying to get attention, trying to say: this is not a joke; this is not entertainment; this is not a points-wins-prizes situation; this is our lives.

Tyler’s paper implies that in this media-saturated world, it is perhaps a little more difficult than it once was to distinguish television from people’s lives; sometimes, you need signs to tell you, held out for the cameras to see: if it’s on television, it’s real, in a strange inversion of what we all thought, once, was the way to tell the difference. She is right, along with Bev Skeggs, to point to the importance of television, and to the importance of how the relationship between television and the world beyond it has changed. Quite a few years ago, in the mid-1990s, Marc Augé talked about supermodernity – the word ‘neoliberalism’ was not very popular at the time (Augé 1995). Supermodernity, Augé said, created non-places, places that are the same here as they are somewhere else – McDonalds, airports, motorways, soap operas. He also said, in The War of Dreams, published as long ago as 1999, that the distinction between the media and everyday life has become more complicated. He spoke of:

“a culture dissolving in quotations, copies and plagiarism, of an identity losing itself in images and reflections, of a history which is swallowed up in the here-and-now of a here-and-now which is itself indefinable (modern, postmodern?) because we perceive it only piecemeal, without any organising principle which can enable us to give meaning to the cliches, advertising commercials and commentaries which stand in for our reality.” ((Augé 1999: 10).

It is good to remember that in the pre-broadband age, these thoughts about fragmentation were already in the air, so that it was perhaps not the internet that ushered them in, but something else – perhaps it was what Tyler has identified as a kind of unholy alliance between big business, the dream factories of film and television, and governments. And most people got shafted. They really did.

As I was reading Tyler’s text, I couldn’t help thinking about Greece. That’s not only because of the headlines at the moment; it’s also because Greece is one of my places, one of the places in which I have both lived and that I study for my own research. The bizarre turn of events in Greece over the last five or six years appears a bit like a massively exaggerated version of what Tyler has been describing for the UK: poverty pornography on a national scale, a whole frigging country of scroungers and benefits cheats, being treated by the rest of Europe like the single road in Birmingham depicted in Benefits Street. It’s non-stop entertainment, the story about Greece, with the added value of having larger than life national stereotypes depicted across the screen – the Germans, the French, the bureaucrats in Brussels, the Nordic countries, the Spanish – they’ve all got their bit parts, and everyone can choose the ones they love to hate most. Thinking about the current situation in Greece through the lens of Tyler’s paper made me think of Russian dolls; it made me think that perhaps the phenomenon she’s describing for the UK is just a miniature version of what is happening in Greece in relation to the whole Eurozone. The paper challenged me to make that connection, to make me see the relationship between the cynicism and the entertainment in how the media have been reporting the financial crisis. Before listening to Tyler’s account, I had mostly been thinking about how the financial crisis has shifted the moral axis of Europe from the old Cold War one of West versus East to the neoliberal one of North versus South. Embedded within both those spatial distinctions was always, of course, inequality; there was always an implied moral and economic difference between West and East, and then more recently, between North and South.

Tyler’s lecture provoked me to consider two questions about this. First, how does class struggle work between countries rather than within them? And second, what is the relationship between inequality and location, and how does that relate to the discussion about class? The first question is relatively easy to answer with the help of some post-colonial research, and with more recent research on the dynamics of migration, such as Bridget Anderson’s work as described in Us and Them. Anderson points out that the contemporary story of what makes an upstanding, decent and respectable citizen needs lots of examples of its opposite – the feckless and indecent citizen, who stretches easily from the undeserving poor citizen at one end of the spectrum to the undeserving and undocumented foreign migrant at the other. The moral story is the same: in order to be a moral and upstanding citizen, you need to pay your bills and, perhaps more acutely than at any other time in history, you need to pay for the right to be legitimately standing on a piece of the earth, to be located in one place rather than another. Just as I was intrigued by the way the financial crisis was initially provoked by sub-prime mortgages, which highlighted how people get pushed into impossible efforts to get a foothold on a place to live, I was intrigued by the fact that the Channel 4 program about benefits cheats was about a street. This was not only people who had misbehaved and refused to be dressed in the appropriate manner in their bodies: they had also messed up their street. It used to be beautiful, now it was a rubbish dump. Literally. There has always been an open secret in the UK about the relation between class and location: north-south England, west-east London, Britain had gated communities way before that phrase existed.

That brings me back to the apparent anachronism of words like class struggle and inequality, the sense that such words are from a different century. On the one hand, Tyler’s argument is that no, these words entirely describe conditions today, and the effort to separate the idea of inequality from the idea of class was all part of the whitewashing that has been going on for quite some time now. But she also acknowledges that the kinds of class struggles and inequalities that these words were originally coined to describe have changed: the neoliberal context has generated versions of them that are not the same as the ones that were there before. So Tyler rightly, in my view, argues that the endless attempts to define class, to classify class, and to make class a matter of identities, is a hiding to nothing, for in those terms, the entity keeps morphing, turning into something else. And in any case, that is beside the point: if you focus on class as identity, you turn it into a cultural artefact, a matter of cultural heritage, even; and that misses the most important point that class-as-inequality and class-as-struggle-against-inequality still very much exists, even if what that means in practice has morphed into something other than what it was when Marx and Engels were writing about it.

The thread I am pulling on here – quite tentatively at the moment – is to suggest that the relationship between what Tyler calls class, inequality and struggle is somehow even more intensely involving territory and real estate than it ever was (though it always was, and Marx of course made a very big deal of that). In Tyler’s approach, class identifies something structured, rather than personal or individual going on; inequality names the effects of that structuring; and struggle notes that it is not a done deal, that people are fighting against the pressure to accept that the emperor is wearing a shiny new suit. There is contingency; there is always the possibility that it could be different.

As an aside here, Bourdieu’s complaint against earlier structural approaches that Tyler draws upon was that sociologists were treating models of people’s practices as if they contained a power that was really capable of determining people’s behaviour – whereas Bourdieu insisted that people determine people’s conditions, and that social structures are just conceptual models invented by sociologists. This leaves a space for struggle within the field of practice, as Tyler points out. But it also questions the idea of the determining force of structures.

The point I’m making here, of course, is the question of how class fits into inequality. Bourdieu argued that earlier scholars such as Durkheim and even Lévi-Strauss were mistaking their own models for what determined people’s behaviour, and that this had a doubly bad effect. On the one hand, it missed the point that the world in which people live is an unequal world, that it contains its own structuring structures, that it contains power dynamics that were weirdly not part of these earlier sociologists’ models of social life. And on the other hand, these earlier models apparently dictated how people should behave, which also left no room for struggle. As Tyler points out, Bourdieu wanted to note that practice, and the implicit contingency of practice – that the outcome is not known in advance, which means there is a space for struggle – was a key part of Bourdieu’s approach. What is slightly less clear is how the inequality that class names fits into the structured part of this story. I have the sense that there is something distinctive about the way the whole debate has played out in recent years, and that this has something to do with territory and location.

Just a couple of other final points. The first one concerns the internet, and its relation to television. Marc Augé also argued, way back in 1999, that the difference between all the ‘virtual worlds’ that anthropologists had already been studying for decades – dream worlds, spirit possession worlds, worlds of the deities and so on – and the worlds created by new media technologies is that there is no connection anymore between what Augé called ‘individual imagination and memory’ and ‘collective imagination and memory’. He suggests that the other dream worlds that anthropologists have studied for decades are anchored into the world of experience through ‘collective imagination and memory’. It is that which is missing in the new media technologies, he says: there is just the fictional creation, unmediated by some coherent collective context. And that creates the sense of an unstable, isolated self; a self that is unconnected to anything else. Of course, he was writing before the advent of social media, before the recreation of social connectivity through the internet. And that social media element raises a question: does the social media element of the Internet work in the same way as television? Social media possibly, at least for now, has some wiggle room in which people can create their own dream worlds, in which people can much more effectively express the struggle that Tyler notes than on television.

If there is one thing I appreciated most about this paper is the explicitly political character of the approach. That the analysis of class is a political analysis that is concerned with inequality should not be something that anyone needs to point out, but as Tyler outlines, the politics seems to have dropped out of these concepts in recent years. This is important in a wider sense, for this depoliticising effect has occurred across a range of social theories, even while they claim to continue to be political. For example, we are living in an era of trying to bring hard science back into the social sciences, especially via the analysis of big data and the return to Darwin and a variety of other earlier scientists in some versions of social theory.

Tyler’s paper is a timely reminder that many social theories have always had political intent: theories based in natural science never did.

Finally, one tiny question: while I understand the concept of neoliberalism, I have often wondered why some aspects of what is happening today have not been named neoconservatism. Many of the actions that Tyler describes seem very far from liberal to me.

References

Augé, Marc. 1995. Non-places: introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity (trans.) John Howe. London: Verso.

—. 1999. The War of Dreams: Studies in Ethno Fiction (trans.) Liz Heron. London: Pluto Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 2014. “Objectification Objectified.” In Anthropology in theory: issues in epistemology, edited by Henrietta L. Moore and Todd Sanders, 151-162. Second Edition. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell.

Navaro-Yashin, Yael. 2002. Faces of the state: secularism and public life in Turkey. Princeton, N.J.; Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Feminist Activisms Summer School 19-22nd May 2015, Centre for Gender & Women’s Studies Lancaster University

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Feminist Activisms: Feminist Media and Cultural Studies Summer school/ MA course, Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, Lancaster University 19th-22nd May 2015

Enroll online here http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/sociology/event/5178/

Campus Map http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/maps/campus.pdf

Programme At a Glance

Tues 19th May Faraday SR3

9–‐10 Registration and welcome

10–‐1 Session 1: Introduction to feminist media and cultural studies: with Anne-Marie Fortier and Maureen Mcneil

1–‐2 Lunch (self–pay)

2–‐5 Session 2: Media Activisms: A workshop with Debra Ferreday

7.30 Dinner location The Borough (Lancaster city centre, £20 per head, self-pay)

Wed 20 May Faraday SR3

10-1: Session 3: Think before you pink? Feminist health activism: a workshop led by Celia Roberts with Vicky Singleton

Lunch 1-2 (catered)

2-5: Session 4: Opening up (In)Security: Feminist activism against wars on the Other led by Lucy Suchman and Imogen Tyler

7:30: Documentary Screening: ‘Women, Art, Revolution’ at the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster City Centre (introduced by Imogen Tyler) 

Thurs 21 May Charles Carter A17

10-1 – Session 4: Feminist Art activism: Imogen Tyler and Rosemary Betterton

1-2: lunch

2-4:- Session 5: student essays/ small group work discussions

Travel to Manchester

17.00 – 19.00: Sarah Schulman, Public Lecture

Friday 22 May County Main SR2

10-1: Session 6: summary workshop/ key ideas: Writing a Feminist Manifesto led by Celia Roberts, Vicky Singleton and Imogen Tyler

Lunch and end

DETAILED PROGRAMME WITH READINGS

Feminist Activisms: Feminist Media and Cultural Studies MA/Summer School

May 2015, Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, Lancaster University

Tues 19th May

9 -10: Registration and welcome

10-1: Session 1: Introduction to feminist media and cultural studies: Anne-Marie Fortier and Maureen McNeil

This session will introduce the course, with a special focus on the history and legacy of the ‘Birmingham school’ of cultural studies. After introducing cultural studies and the ‘cultural turn’ in social science, we focus on feminist politics and interventions in cultural studies, and link them to other paradigm shifts in social and cultural research. Staged as a ‘conversation’ between Anne-Marie Fortier and Maureen McNeil, we will travel through generations of feminist cultural studies – ‘where we’re from’, ‘where we’re at’, and where feminist cultural studies might go. We will identify some key themes and issues in the history of feminist cultural studies. We will also draw from our own work as illustrations of cultural studies research.

Required readings:

Franklin, Sarah, Celia Lury and Jackie Stacey (1991/2004) ‘Feminism and cultural studies: pasts, presents, futures’, in  S. Franklin, Sarah, C. Lury and J. Stacey (Eds) Off-Centre: Feminism and Cultural Studies, London & New York: Routledge: pp. 1-4, 11-14 (extracts)

Optional reading (but recommended): 

Bennett, Tony, Lawrence Grossberg, and Meaghan Morris (Eds) (2005) New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Malden, MA : Blackwell.

Brunsdon, Charlotte (1996) ‘A thief in the night: stories of feminism in the 1970s at CCCS’, in D. Morley, and C. Kuan-Hsing (eds) Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. London: Routledge: pp. 276-286.

Chabram-Dernersesian, Angie (1992) ‘I throw punches for my race, but I don’t want to be a man: writing US – Chicano-nos (Girl/Us)/Chicanas – into the movement script’, in L. Grossberg, C. Nelson, P.A. Treichler (Eds) Cultural Studies: A Reader. London and New York: Routledge: pp. 81-95.

Chen, Kuan-Hsing (1998) Trajectories: Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, New York: Routledge

De Lauretis, Theresa (1986) ‘Feminist Studies/Critical Studies: Issues, Terms and Contexts’, in Feminist Studies/Critical Studies, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Fortier, Anne-Marie (1996) ‘Troubles in the Field. The Use of Personal Experiences as Sources of Knowledge’, Critique of Anthropology 16(3): 303-323. Reprinted in a slightly amended version in (1998) ‘Gender, ethnicity and fieldwork: a case study’, in C. Seale (ed.), Researching society and culture. London, Sage: 48-57.

Franklin, Sarah, Celia Lury and Jackie Stacey (Eds) (1991/2004) Off-Centre:

Fortier, Anne-Marie (2000) Migrant Belongings, Oxford: Berg.

Evans, Mary (Ed.) (2000) Feminisms: Critical Concepts in Literary & Cultural Studies, London: Routledge.

Brundson, Charlotte (2000) The Feminist, the Housewife, and the Soap Opera. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press

Brunsdon, Charlotte (1993) ‘Identity and feminist television criticism’, Media, Culture & Society 15(2): 309-320.

Bobo, Jacqueline (Ed.) (2001) Black Feminist Cultural Criticism, Oxford: Blackwell

Additional readings

Thornham, Sue (2000) ‘Conclusion: Narratives of displacement’, in Feminist Theory and Cultural Studies: Stories of Unsettled Relations, London: Arnold: pp. 184-198.

Thornham, Sue (2000) ‘The 1970s: a new consciousness among women’, in Feminist Theory and Cultural Studies: Stories of Unsettled Relations, London: Arnold: 44-70. Feminism and Cultural Studies, London & New York: Routledge.

Gill, Rosalind (2007) Gender and the Media, Cambridge: Polity

Gill, Rosalind and Christina Scharff (Eds) (2011) New Femininities: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism, And Subjectivity, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Grossberg, Lawrence, Nelson, Cary, Treichler, Paula A. (Eds) (1992) Cultural Studies: A Reader. London and New York: Routledge.Hall, Stuart (1988) The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left, London & New York : Verso

McNeil, Maureen (2007) Feminist Cultural Studies of Science and Technology,London: Routledge.

McRobbie, Angela (2000) Feminism and youth culture (2nd ed.), London: Macmillan

Probyn, Elspeth (1993) Sexing the Self: Gendered Positions in Cultural Studies, London & New York: Routledge

McRobbie, Angela (1994) Postmodernism and Popular Culture, London & New York: Routledge. (see especially chapters 3 and 4).

Ross, Karen, (2012) The Handbook of Gender, Sex, and Media, Malden: Wiley Blackwell. Shiach, Morag (Ed.) (1999) Feminism and Cultural Studies, Oxford University Press.

Tierney, William G. (1997) Academic Outlaws: Queer Theory and Cultural Studies in the Academy, Thousand Oaks (Cal): Sage Publications

Thornham, Sue (2000) Feminist Theory and Cultural Studies: Stories of Unsettled Relations, London: Arnold.

Thornham, Helen and Elke Weissmann (eds) (2013) Renewing Feminisms: Radical Narratives, Fantasies and Futures in Media Studies, London: I.B. Tauris.

Skeggs, Beverley (ed.) (1995) Feminist Cultural Theory: Process and Production, Manchester UP.

Trinh T. Minh-ha (1991) When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender, and Cultural Politics, New York: Routledge

Weedon, Chris (1999) Feminism, Theory and the Politics of Difference, Basil Blackwell.

Turner, Graeme (2003) British Cultural Studies (Third Edition), London & New York: Routledge.

Williams, Raymond (1988) Keywords: a Vocabulary of Culture and Society(Revised edition). Fontana Press.

Winship, Janice (1987) Inside Women’s Magazines, London & New York: Pandora

Women’s Studies Group, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies(1978) Women Take Issue: Aspects of Women’s Subordination, London: Hutchinson.

Journals

  • Cultural Studies
  • Critical Methodologies
  • International Journal of Cultural Studies
  • Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies
  • Cultural Critique
  • Configurations
  • Social Text
  • Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society
  • Feminist Media Studies
  • European Journal of Cultural Studies
  • Cultural Studies

1-2 Lunch (self-pay)

2-5pm Session 2:  Media Activisms: Debra Ferreday

This session will look at digital feminist activisms, to explore how activists are using social media to challenge cultures of violence. We will focus on two main areas of feminist campaigning: feminist responses to online trolling, and global feminist campaigns against sexual violence, with particular reference to Indian feminism. We will use this to reflect on our own experience as feminists, and to think about the ways in which digital media makes new forms of organisation possible, but also involves its own forms of oppression.

Required Readings:

Emma Jane (2014) ‘“Your a Ugly, Whorish, Slut” Understanding E-bile’ Feminist Media Studies 14, 4. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14680777.2012.741073#.VPWxjfmsV8E

Please be aware that this reading contains extremely graphic descriptions of sexual violence. If you prefer not to read these, please just prepare the Losch article.

Elisabeth Losch, ‘Hashtag Feminism and Twitter Activism in India’, Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 12 (2014): 10-22. http://social-epistemology.com/2014/11/03/hashtag-feminism-and-twitter-activism-in-india-elizabeth-losh/

Additional readings

Nancy K. Baym (2006), “The Emergence of On-line Community”, S. Jones (Ed.) Cybersociety: communication and community, Newbury Park, CA: Sage., pp. 35–68

Radhika Gajjala (2013) ed. Cyberculture and the Subaltern: Weavings of the Virtual and Real, Lanham, Lexington Books.

Rapp et al (2010) ‘The Internet as a Tool for Black Feminist Activism: Lessons From an Online Antirape Protest’ Feminist Criminology  vol. 5 no. 3 244-262

Ann Travers (2003) ‘Parallel Subaltern Feminist Counterpublics in Cyberspace’ Sociological Perspectives vol. 46 no. 2 223-237

Kristyn Gorton , Joanne Garde-Hansen  (2013) F’rom Old Media Whore to New Media Troll’ Vol. 13, 2.  288-302

Lisa Nakamura and Peter Chow-White, eds., (2012) Race After the Internet, Routledge.

Susan Herring, Kirk Job-Sluder, Rebecca Scheckler & Sasha Barab (2002) Searching for Safety Online: Managing Searching for Safety Online: Managing “Trolling” in a Feminist Forum The Information Society: An International Journal Volume 18, Issue 5, 371-384

7.30 Dinner at the Borough – Lancaster City Centre

Wed 20 May

10-1: Session 3: Think before you pink? Feminist health activism: Celia Roberts and Vicky Singleton

The Women’s Health Movement has challenged the biomedicalisation of women’s bodies, collating and sharing women’s experiences of health and illness. As we consider the history of the Movement we will reflect upon how feminist activists have negotiated new relationships with biomedical professionals, the pharmaceutical industry, scientists and other activists.

Our case study will be breast cancer activism. We will look at how activists changed the experience of being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer through cultural practices including art, lobbying, fund raising and awareness campaigns. We will watch a film, Pink Ribbon Inc., about the commercialisation of the pink ribbon and discuss the neo-liberal capture of feminist health politics.

Read: Murphy, Michelle (2012) Introduction, Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience, Duke University Press, 1-24

Additional resources

Clarke, Adele E. and Olesen, Virginia L. (eds) (1999) Revisioning Women, Health and Healing: Feminist, Cultural and Technoscience Perspectives Routledge: New York and London

Davis, Angela (1990) ‘Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: The Politics of Black Women’s Health’, in Evelyn C. White (ed) The Black Women’s Health Book, the Seal Press, Seattle, pp. 18-26

Davis, Kathy (2007) in The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: How Feminism Travels Across Borders, Duke University Press

Ehrenreich, Barbara and English Deidre (1978) For Her Own Good : 150 years of experts advice to women London: Pluto Press

Gibbon, Sahra (2007) Breast Cancer Genes and the Gendering of Knowledge, London: Palgrave Macmillan

Lorde, Audre, (1997) The Cancer Journals, San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books

Lorde, Audre (1988) ‘A burst of light: Living with cancer’ in A Burst of Light: essays by Audre Lorde, Firebrand Books: Ithaca, New York

Klawiter, Maren (2004) Breast cancer in two regimes: the impact of social movements on illness experience, Sociology of Health & Illness 26 (6)L 845–874 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9566.2004.421_1.x/abstract;jsessionid=158E6619E3FFC05B3120E40183EEE82D.f01t02

Klawiter, Maren (2008) The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer: Changing cultures of disease and activism, University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis and London

http://msmagazine.com/blog/2011/10/31/how-audre-lorde-made-queer-history/ http://web.archive.org/web/20071218231238/http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/Pages/PrettyInPink.html

Martin, Emily (1989) The Woman in the Body: a cultural analysis of reproduction Milton Keynes: Open University Press

The Boston Women’s Health Collective (1973) Our Bodies, Our Selves, Simon and Shuster: New York.

Wilkinson, Sue (2000) Breast cancer: a feminist perspective, in Jane Ussher (ed) Women’s Health: Contemporary international perspectives, BPS Books, Leicester, pp. 230-237

Price, J & Shildrick, M (1999) Feminist Theory and the Body, Edinburgh: Edinburgh U.P

Alison Hann (1996) The Politics of Breast Cancer Screening, 1996, Avebury, Aldershot.

Gayle Sulik (2011) Pink Ribbon Blues: How breast cancer culture undermines women’s health, Oxford University Press

Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, “Towards a Feminist Approach to Breast Cancer” in Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger (eds), Women and Health: Feminist Perspectives, 1994, Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 124- 140.

Krieger N. (2002) ‘Breast cancer: a disease of affluence, poverty, or both? The case of African American women,’ American Journal of Public Health; 92:611-613.

Bix, Amy Sue (1997) ‘Diseases chasing money and power: Breast cancer and AIDS activism challenging authority’ Journal of Policy History 9(1): 5-32.

Samantha King (2006) Pink Ribbon Inc.: Breast cancer and the politics of philanthropy, University of Minnesota Press

Wells, Susan (2010) Our Bodies, Ourselves and the work of writing, Stanford University Press.

 Websites

www.ourbodiesourselves.org/

www.WomensHealthResearch.org

www.womenshealth.co.uk/     

www.bbc.co.uk/health/womens_health/

http://www.bcaction.org/

http://feministcurrent.com/6731/pinkwashing-the-trouble-with-breast-cancer-awareness-campaigns-an-interview-with-kim-irish-of-breast-cancer-action/

http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/cancerland.htm

The National Breast Cancer Coalition website, http://www.natlbcc.org/

The UK Breast Cancer Coalition website, http://www.ukbcc.org. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14680777.2012.741073#.VPWxjfmsV8E

Lunch 1-2 (catered)

2-5pm : Session 4: Opening up (In)Security: Feminist activism against wars on the Other: Lucy Suchman with Imogen Tyler 

This session will focus on anti-drone and anti-war activism, but seeks to draw out also these activisms in relationship to broader wars against the Other. How can feminist analysis help us to understand the integrated circuits of remotely-controlled warfare and border controls?  What are the generative possibilities for combining street protests and other forms of resistance at the borders and from below, with journal publication in projects of social transformation?  Drawing from indicative cases of activism informed by feminist theory and practice, this session will examine diverse modes of intervention into contemporary regimes of militarism ‘abroad’ and border enforcement ‘at home’.

Readings

Thobani, Sunera (2007) White wars: Western feminisms and the ‘War on Terror’. Feminist Theory 8: 169-185.

Rachel V. Kutz-Flamenbaum (2007) ‘Code Pink, Raging Grannies, and the Missile Dick Chicks: Feminist Performance Activism in the Contemporary Anti-War Movement’ NWSA Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1, Feminist Activist Art (Spring, 2007), pp. 89-105 http://www.jstor.org/stable/4317232?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

see also

Tyler, Imogen (2013) ‘Naked Protest: The Maternal Politics of Citizenship and Revolt’ Citizenship Studies 17 (2): 211-226 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13621025.2013.780742#.VQl4701yapo and as a chapter in Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain (Zed, London) – discusses transnational inter-relations of protests in different border zones with reference to immigration detention, niger delta and code pink

Additional readings:

Benjamin, M. (2012). Drone Warfare: Killing by remote control. New York and London: OR Books.

Butler, Judith (20090 Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?, (Verso)

Cockburn, Cynthia, and Dubravka Zarkov, eds. (2002) The Postwar Moment: Militaries, Masculinities, and International Peacekeeping. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Davis, Angela (2003) Are Prisons Obsolete? (Seven Stories Press,)

Enloe, Cynthia (1989) Bananas, Beaches and Bases:  Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Univ. of California Press.

Enloe, Cynthia (2000) Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Feltz, Renee and Baksh, Stokley  (2012) “Business of Detention,” in Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis, ed. Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge (Athens: University of Georgia Press)

Gilmore, Ruth Wilson  (2007) Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California, 1st ed. (University of California Press).

Harvey, David (2005) The New Imperialism (Oxford  ; New York: Oxford University Press). See esp. Chapter 4: Accumulation by Dispossession.

Thomas Gregory (2012) Potential Lives, Impossible Deaths, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 14:3, 327-347.

Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge ‘Introduction: Borders, Prisons, and Abolitionist Visions’ Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis, Edited by Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge, UGA press.

Miller, Laura (1998) Feminism and the Exclusion of Army Women from Combat. Gender Issues 16: 33-64.

Mountz, A. and Loyd, J. (2014) ‘Transnational productions of remoteness: building onshore and offshore carceral regimes across borders, Geogr. Helv., 69, 389-398, doi:10.5194/gh-69-389-2014,.

Muhammad, Khalil Gibran  (2011) “Where Did All the White Criminals Go?: Reconfiguring Race and Crime on the Road to Mass Incarceration,” Souls 13, (1): 72–90, doi:10.1080/10999949.2011.551478.

Dylan Rodríguez (2008) ‘”I Would Wish Death on You…”Race, Gender, and Immigration in the Globality of the U.S. Prison Regime’ S&F online, 6(3): http://sfonline.barnard.edu/immigration/print_drodriguez.htm

 Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic Report Living Under Drones.  Available at http://www.livingunderdrones.org/

Smith, Evan and Marmo, Marinella (2014) Race, Gender and the Body in British Immigration Control: Subject to Examination (Palgrave)

Suchman, Lucy and Jutta Weber (forth) Human-Machine Autonomies.  Draft prepared for a collected volume coming out of the symposium ‘Autonomous Weapons Systems – Law, Ethics, Policy’, 24-25 April, European University Institute, Florence, available at https://www.academia.edu/10738030/Human-Machine_Autonomies_revised.

Weber, Cynthia (2014) Queer International Relations.  International Studies Review 16: 596-622.

Young, Iris Marion (2003) The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflections on the Current Security State. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 29: 1-25.

7:30pm: Documentary Screening: ‘Women, Art, Revolution’ at the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster City Centre. Introduced by Imogen

 

Thurs 21 May

Session 5: Feminist Art Activism: Imogen Tyler with Rosemary Betterton

This week we will consider feminist art and art activism and its central role in feminist movements. What can art activism achieve?

Rosemary will begin with a talk about feminist art activism/ body art from the 1970s and 1980s in the UK. Imogen will focus on art that directly engages with sexual violence and rape culture. The material we will consider in this session is upsetting and sometimes graphic. Despite the difficulty with working through this material, the aim of the session is to explore and examine an incredibly rich and important feminist archive. The material produced by feminist artists and activists as they have sought to directly intervene in social myths about sexual violence and rape for over 40 years.

In 2002, in an essay titled ‘Toward a New Feminist Theory of Rape’ Carine M. Mardorossian argued that ‘Sexual violence has become the taboo subject of feminist theory today’. What Mardorissian claimed is that issues of sexual violence had become relegated to empirical social science, whilst feminist theoretical work on culture, visual culture and aesthetics had become increasingly detached from lived experiences of sexual violence, focusing on ‘more ambivalent expressions of male domination such as pornography and sexual harassment’. ‘Rape’ she concludes, ‘has become academia’s undertheorized and apparently untheorizable issue’. This session examines and troubles this claim through a focus on feminist art activism around sexual violence and rape produced over almost forty years, and in doing tracks a resurgence in anti-rape activism, which has accompanied a seeming intensification and proliferation of ‘rape culture’ within popular culture and the public sphere.

Artists work we will consider includes: Ana Mendieta, Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz, Sue Williams, Nancy Spero, Kiera Faber, Nan Goldin, Donna Ferrato, The Guerrilla Girls,  Girls, Emma Sulkowicz, Christen Clifford, art projects include ‘Myths of Rape’ (1977/2012) and activist projects such as the clothes line project, slutwalks and protests against the proliferation of “popular cultures of rape” through to online activism such as @countdeadwomen and @everydaysexism. This weaving together feminist art projects and feminist activism will allow us to to consider the ways in which feminist political aesthetics can contest, disrupt and activate alternative political imaginaries about sexual violence within public spaces.

Required Readings

Vivien Green Fryd ‘Suzanne Lacy’s Three Weeks in May: Feminist Activist Performance Art as “Expanded Public Pedagogy” NWSA Journal, 19 (1): 23-38.http://www.jstor.org/stable/4317229

Lacy, Suzanne. ‘‘Three Weeks in May’: Speaking Out on Rape, a Political Art Piece.’ Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 2, no. 1 (Spring 1977): 64-70. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3346109?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Carole Stabile (short blog piece) (2014) ‘The Rusty Taste of Shame’ Ms Magazinehttp://msmagazine.com/blog/2014/02/14/the-rusty-taste-of-shame/

see also

Sharon Irish (2010) Suzanne Lacy: Spaces Between, University of Minnesota Press.

Extra Reading

Mary Jo Aagerstoun and Elissa Auther, `Considering Feminist Activist Art` NWSA Journal, 19 (1), Spring 2007, pp. vii-xiv

Additional Reading List

Feminist Art Background Reading

Goldin, Nan, David Armstrong, and Hans Werner Holzwarth, eds.(1996) I’ll Be Your Mirror. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art and Zurich: Scalo Publishers, 1996.

Hilary Robinson (ed) (2001), Feminism-Art-Theory: An Anthology 1968-2000,Oxford, John Wiley

Rosemary Betterton (2014) Maternal Bodies in the Visual Arts,  Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Rosemary Betterton (1987) Looking On: Images of Femininity in the Visual Arts and Media, London: Pandora Press

See Katy Deepwell (2011) ‘n.paradoxa’s 12 Step Guide to Feminist Art, Art History and Criticism’ [excellent overview of key literature on women art feminism –in West http://www.ktpress.co.uk/pdf/nparadoxaissue21.pdf

n.paradoxa:  international feminist art journal ‘Feminist Art Manifestos and Feminist Manifestos’

Feminist Art Activism: A chronological list of feminist art manifestos and feminist manifestos which have had an impact on the women’s art movement and the creation of feminist art. http://ktpress.co.uk/feminist-art-manifestos.asp and watch http://www.ica.org.uk/video/feminist-art-seminar-manifestos-feminist-art

Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007) website, exhibition and bookhttp://sites.moca.org/wack/

FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture http://upsettingrapeculture.com/ see art actions http://upsettingrapeculture.com/artists.php

Media debates about whether Rape Culture exists—for example

Kitchens ,Caroline (2014) ‘Its Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria’, Time Magazinehttp://time.com/30545/its-time-to-end-rape-culture-hysteria/

Katherine Krueger, (2013) “Letter Serves as Ugly Reminder of Rape Culture on Campus,” Badger Herald, November 5, http://​badgerherald.​com/​oped/​2013/​11/​05/​letter-serves-ugly-reminder-rape-culture-campus/​.

David Hookstead, (2013) “‘Rape Culture’ Does Not Exist,” letter to the editor, Badger Herald, November 4, http://​badgerherald.​com/​oped/​2013/​11/​04/​rape-culture-does-not-exist/​.

Feminism, Rape, Sexual Violence: Selected Readings (from across political & theoretical spectrum)

Alcoff, Linda, and Laura Gray (1993) “Survivor Discourse: Transgression or Recuperation?” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 18(2):260–91.

Baumgardner, Jennifer (2000) “What Does Rape Look Like?” Nation, January 3, 20–23.

Baker, Carrie N. 2007. “The Emergence of Organized Feminist Resistance to Sexual Harassment in the United States in the 1970s.” Journal of Women’s History19(3):161–84.

Blocker, Jane. Where is Ana Mendieta? Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

Buchwald, Emile, Pamela R. Fletcher and Martha Roth, eds. Transforming a Rape Culture, rev. ed., Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2005.

Baumgardner, Jennifer, and Amy Richards. (2000). Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

———. (2004). “Feminism and Femininity; or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Thong.” In All About the Girl: Culture, Power, and Identity, ed. Anita Harris, 59-68. New York: Routledge.

Black Women’s Blueprint. (2011). “An Open Letter from Black Women to the SlutWalk.” http://www.blackwomensblueprint.org/2011/09/23/

an-open-letter-from-black-women-to-the-slutwalk/.

Bourke, Joanna, (2007) Rape: A History from 1860 to the Present, London: Virago Press.

Bourke, Joanna, (2007) Rape: Sex, Violence, and History, London: Virago Press.

Susan Brownmiller (1975) Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape , New York: Simon and Schuster.

Emile Buchwald, Pamela R. Fletcher and Martha Roth, (2005) ‘Are We Really Living in a Rape Culture?’ in Transforming a Rape Culture, rev. ed., eds. Emile Buchwald, Pamela R. Fletcher and Martha Roth (Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.

Gavey, Nicola, (2005) Just Sex? The Cultural Scaffolding of Rape, Routledge.

Haag, Pamela (1996) “‘Putting Your Body on the Line’: The Question of Violence, Victims, and the Legacies of Second‐Wave Feminism.” differences 8(2):23–68.

Hannon, Elliott. 2011. “Indian Women Take SlutWalk to New Delhi’s Streets.” Time World, August 1. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2086142,00.html

Helliwell, Christine (2000) “‘It’s Only a Penis’: Rape, Feminism, and Difference.”Signs 25(3):789–816.

Hengehold, Laura (2000) “Remapping the Event: Institutional Discourses and the Trauma of Rape.” Signs 26(1):189–214.

Horeck, Tayna (2014) “#AskThicke: “Blurred Lines,” Rape Culture, and the Feminist Hashtag Takeover” Feminist Media Studies

Higgins, Lynn A. and Brenda R. Silver, eds. (1991) Rape and Representation. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lacy, Suzanne. (1977) ‘‘Three Weeks in May’: Speaking Out on Rape, a Political Art Piece.’ Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 2, (1): 64-70.

Lacy, Suzanne (2010) Leaving Art: Writings on Performance, Politics, and Publics 1974-2007. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

LeeAnn Kahlor & Matthew S. Eastin (2011) ‘Television’s Role in the Culture of Violence Toward Women: A Study of Television Viewing and the Cultivation of Rape Myth Acceptance in the United States’ , Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 55 (2): 215-231

Lesage, Julia (1978) “Disarming Film Rape” Jump Cut 19 (December): 14–16.

Marcus, Sharon (1992) “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention.” In Butler and Scott (eds) Feminist Theorise the Political: 385–404.

Mardorossian, Carine (2002) ‘Toward a New Feminist Theory of Rape’ Signs 27 (3): 743-775

Meyer, Michela (2014) “#Thevagenda’s War on Headlines: Feminist Activism in the Information Age” Feminist Media Studies

Mills, Jane (1995) “Screening Rape.” Index on Censorship 24(6):38–41.

Nguyen, Tram (2013) ‘From SlutWalks to SuicideGirls: Feminist Resistance in the Third Wave and Postfeminist Era’, WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly , 41 (3-4): 157-172.

Pearson, Lisa, ed. (2010) Torture of Women. Los Angeles: Siglio Press.

Projansky, Sarah. Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture. New York: NYU Press, 2011.

Roth, Moira (1988) ‘Suzanne Lacy: Social Reformer and Witch.’ TDR 32( 1):  42-60.

Rothenberg, Diane (1988) ‘Social Art/Social Action’ TDR 32 (1): 61-70.

Poulami Roychowdhury (2013)”The Delhi Gang Rape”: The Making of International Causes” Feminist Studies, 39 (1): 282-292

Rentschler, Carrie A (2014) ‘Rape Culture and the Feminist Politics of Social Media’Girlhood Studies, 7 (1): 65-82.

Rentschler, Carrie A. (2015) ‘#Safetytipsforladies: Feminist Twitter Takedowns of Victim Blaming’ [online only at time of writing], Feminist Media Studieshttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14680777.2015.1008749#.VOsoUk0fz4g

Roiphe, Katie (1993) The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus. Boston: Little, Brown.

Saltzman, Lisa and Eric Rosenberg, eds. (2006) Trauma and Visuality in Modernity. Hanover, NH and London: University Press of New England.

Sielke, Sabine (2002) Reading Rape: The Rhetoric of Sexual Violence in American Literature and Culture, 1790-1990, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Tanner, Laura E. (1994) Intimate Violence: Reading Rape and Torture in Twentieth-Century Fiction, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Sheila Schwartz, ed., (1993) The Subject of Rape: ISP Papers, No. 4 New York: Whitney Museum of Art.

Sommers, Christina Hoff. Researching the “Rape Culture” of America.

Rozee, Patricia. “Resisting a Rape Culture”. Rape Resistance.http://www.raperesistance.org/research/rape_culture.html

Steffes, Micah (2008). “The American Rape Culture”. High Plains Reader [online].

Ferrato, Donna (1991) Living with the Enemy. New York: Aperture Foundation.

Fryd, Vivien Green (2007) ‘Suzanne Lacy’s Three Weeks in May: Feminist Activist Performance Art as ‘Expanded Public Pedagogy.’’ NWSA Journal 19(1): 23-38.

Goldin, Nan, David Armstrong, and Hans Werner Holzwarth, eds. (1996) I’ll Be Your Mirror. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art and Zurich: Scalo Publishers.

Heiferman, Marvin, Mark Holborn, and Suzanne Fletcher, eds. (1986) The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. New York: Aperture Foundation, Inc.

Higgins, Lynn A. and Brenda R. Silver, eds. (1991). Rape and Representation. New York: Columbia University Press.

1-2: Lunch

2-3.30pm: Discussion of essays (MA) and relevance to research (PhD and others)

Travel to Manchester

17.00 – 19.00: Sarah Schulman, Public Lecture

“Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair”

“It is not only that we may not choose with whom to cohabitate, but that we must actively preserve the unchosen character of inclusive and plural cohabitation; we not only live with those we never chose and to whom we may feel no social sense of belonging, but we are also obligated to preserve their lives and the plurality of which they form a part. In this sense, concrete political norms and ethical prescriptions emerge from the unchosen character of these modes of cohabitation.”

-Judith Butler, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism

“Shunning is so often the go-to tool of people dealing with problems or conflict in queer communities, which only contributes to cycles of dehumanization and abuse. It’s the easy, simplistic response too often deployed for all manner of interpersonal and inter-community conflict.”

-Cooper Lee Bombardier  – Facebook Post, January 2015

“I want people to be open to the little power that they do have.”

-Lisa Henderson, personal conversation, 2015

Venue: John Casken, Manchester University

19.00 – 20.00: Wine Reception, Venue: Café Muse

Friday 22 May

10-1: Key Ideas Summary workshop

1-2 Lunch

The Business of Immigration Detention: Events and Conference Programme

Conference Programme:

The Business of Immigration Detention: Activisms, Resistances, Critical Interventions.

Lancaster University, January 22-23 2015

Sponsored by the ESRC, the North West DTC and the Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe)

JANUARY 22 – PUBLIC EVENTS

5.30-6.30pm  Public Lecture: Professor Alison Mountz, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada.

‘”The business of detention, the death of asylum and the life of activism.”

Chair: Dr Imogen Tyler

Venue: Marcus Merriman LT, Bowland North

7-8pm                   Public Performance: Ice&Fire

‘Asylum Monologues’

Venue: Chaplaincy Centre, Lancaster University

After the Ice&Fire performance the WAST choir will sing and there will be a wine reception and vegetarian buffet in the Chaplaincy Centre along with a book stall (Blackwells).

JANUARY 23 – CONFERENCE

Lancaster University FASS building rooms 2/3, 9.am- 5pm (building 21 on campus map)

9-9.30am    Registration with tea/coffee

9.30–10      Welcome

Professor John Urry, Director of CeMoRe

Dr Imogen Tyler, conference organiser

WAST choir sing to open the event

10-12.30     Activisms in and around detention

Chair: Professor Anne-Marie Fortier

20 min presentations followed by roundtable discussion:

Christine Bacon, Artistic Director of Ice & Fire

‘Using Human Rights Performance to Inspire Action’

WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together)

Women Asylum Seekers in Greater Manchester, sharing their experiences and their campaigning work, in particular the current “ Shut Down Yarl’s Wood campaign“.

Pa Modou Bojang (Prince) from MaMa

Talk about experiences of immigration system and detention and activism with Liverpool Migrant Artists: Mutual aid.

Eiri Ohtani, Detention Forum.

‘How immigration detention “works”‘

John Grayson, activist and Independent Researcher SYMAAG.

‘How to use housing to hurt people – ‘soft detention’ in G4S asylum housing’

12.30-1.30pm      LUNCH (provided a hot lunch and drinks)

1.30-3.30    Research as Resistance

Dr Celia Roberts

20 min presentations followed by roundtable discussion

Professor Alice Bloch, Manchester University.

‘Living “illegality”: Multiple exclusions and uncertainties’.

Dr Alex Hall, York University.

‘Borderwatch: Cultures of Immigration, Detention and Control’

Dr Maja Sager, Lancaster University / Lund University.

‘A continuum of constraints. Migrants’ experiences of constrained mobility and community building in the UK’.

Professor Gillian Whitlock, University of Queensland.

‘The Hospitality of Cyberspace’

Dr Sarah Turnbull, University of Oxford

Methodological and Ethical Challenges of Studying Immigration Detention’

3.30–4pm             COFFEE BREAK and cakes provided

4-5.30       Closing Keynote. Dr Jenna Loyd, University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

‘The business of detention and wages of innocence: Ending detention without exception’

Chair: Professor Lucy Suchman

 ABSTRACTS

Keynotes

 Professor Alison Mountz, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada.

‘The business of detention, the death of asylum, and the life of activism’

Jan 22, 5.30-6.30pm

This talk explores contemporary landscapes of asylum through the lens of offshore border enforcement and the detention of migrants and asylum-seekers on islands. There and elsewhere, the death of asylum and the business of detention unfold in concert. The paper draws on research on Australia’s Christmas Island, Italy’s Lampedusa, and US Pacific islands of Guam and Saipan. These sites are used to inhibit human migration and paths to asylum. The islands serve as material platforms for detention, where isolating forces engulf people, creating islands within islands. They also serve as key nodes in transnational activist networks designed to counter the isolation of remote detention. The death of asylum is contested by the life of activism.

Dr Jenna Loyd, University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

‘The business of detention and wages of innocence: Ending detention without exception’

Jan 23, 4-5.30pm 

The categories that activists and advocates use to contest detention, deportation, and imprisonment can reproduce the very systems we’re trying to confront. This talk considers how claims of innocence (“we’re not criminals”) or respectability (“asylum seekers or immigrants don’t deserve to be detained”) shore up carceral logics: that there is some criminal or law-breaker, and that they deserve to be locked up. In discussing efforts to move beyond walls and cages in the United States, I focus on the role of anti-Black racism in constructions of guilt and innocence, victim and aggressor that uphold carceral citizenship. What wages do we (as organizers, as aggrieved and grieving communities, as advocates) expect from these terms, who may never claim them, and what else might be done?

Roundtable ‘Activisms in and around detention’

Jan 23, 10-12.30

 Christine Bacon, Ice & Fire

‘On using performance to raise public awareness of human rights issues about detention’

 WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together).

Women Asylum Seekers Together in Greater Manchester talking about their empowering self-help support group and their dynamic and brave campaigning work, in particular their current “Shut Down Yarl’s wood campaign”.

Pa Modou Bojang (Prince), MaMa (Migrant Artists: Mutual Aid).

Talk about experiences of immigration system and detention and activism with Liverpool Migrant Artists: Mutual aid.

Eiri Ohtani, Detention Forum.

‘How immigration detention “works”’

Despite some NGOs’ criticism of its devastating impact on immigrants’ lives, immigration detention continues to grow in size and scope. It asks why and how this most pressing human rights and civil liberty issue in the UK today remains largely unchallenged. The talk will also explore how immigration detention is differently framed by various actors in the field and identify contradictions observed in detention advocacy work which could generate potentially conflicting and confusing narratives.

John Grayson, activist and Independent Researcher SYMAAG.

‘How to use housing to hurt people – ‘soft detention’ in G4S asylum housing’

Since 2012 most asylum housing in the UK has been contracted to international security companies G4S and Serco. Neither company had any experience in providing social housing but both had extensive experience in the UK detention estate and international asylum markets.

Asylum housing tenants, researchers and StopG4S campaign groups have systematically exposed the appalling conditions in G4S contract areas in a series of reports and briefings for Parliamentary hearings and select committees.G4S has been fined for its negligence on the contracts and heavily censured and criticised by both the Home Affairs Committee and Public Accounts Committee.

G4S retains the asylum housing contract at present to 2017,but  resistance continues; now in a context of rising numbers of ‘dispersed’ asylum seekers, election racism and open hostility to asylum seekers in the media and on the streets.

Roundtable ‘Research as Resistance’

Jan 23, 1.30-3.0

 Professor Alice Bloch, Manchester University.

‘Living “illegality”: Multiple exclusions and uncertainties’

This paper will focus on undocumented migrants, who are not physically in detention, but live under the shadow of detention and deportation. Drawing on data from an ESRC funded project Undocumented Migrants, Ethnic Enclaves and Networks: Opportunities, Traps or Class Based Constructs? (ES/1037490/2) the juxtaposition between invisibility in relation to the state apparatus of internal border controls and the necessity of being visible in some contexts will be explored. The ways in which exclusions are experienced, managed and understood as constraints and choices in relation to being undocumented will be considered.

Dr Alex Hall, York University.

‘Borderwatch: Cultures of Immigration, Detention and Control’

This paper will discuss the acts of looking and watching that are inherent in the securitised detention centre. For staff working in the IRC, the modes of surveillance in which they are engaged tend to de-personalise and de-individualise the detained people under their control. The act of watching, and being watched, is constantly at stake in the everyday struggles between staff and detainees. Drawing on qualitative research among staff in a UK IRC, the talk will reflect on the experience of doing ethnography (itself a kind of surveillance) within IRC and the critical potential of other styles of visual practice in securitised environments.

Dr Maja Sager, Lancaster University / Lund University.

‘A continuum of constraints. Migrants’ experiences of constrained mobility and community building in the UK’.

This presentation is based on material from an ethnographic study with groups and networks organised by and for irregular migrants and asylum seekers in Manchester, UK. The paper draws on two recurring themes in the material: constrained mobility on the one hand and support practices on the other hand. I analyse how a set of legislative, administrative and social mechanisms in the British asylum reception system constrains mobility and hence effect isolation in the everyday life of migrants seeking asylum. I argue that these mechanisms entail a continuum of constrains running from inside the actual immigration detention centres to outside in the community. I also reflect upon the ways in which migration rights advocacy organisations respond to the conditions of constrained mobility and consider the significance of community building and mutual support in this context.

Professor Gillian Whitlock, University of Queensland.

‘The Hospitality of Cyberspace’

In this talk I will consider the maritime voyages filmed and narrated by asylum seekers, where they become ‘producers’ of their own testimonial narratives that are then disseminated through both conventional and new media.  Social media offers new venues and opportunities for the dissemination of testimony generated by the asylum seekers, from within the boats, trucks and planes that transport them.  Much of the current writing on social activism and new media turns to the uprisings of the Arab Spring that was inspired and energized by new technologies and the dissemination of dissent. Asylum seekers are not citizens seeking democracy in the public spaces of their own homelands, to the contrary, they are stigmatised as the barbarians at the gates of ours, and as a threat to the security of the nation. However in their hands smartphones and social media enable new forms of testimonial narrative, from within spaces of detention. Can we speak of the hospitality of cyberspace on behalf of the dispossessed?’

Dr Sarah Turnbull, University of Oxford.

‘Methodological and Ethical Challenges of Studying Immigration Detention’

In this talk I will draw on my recently completed ethnographic fieldwork across four British immigration removal centres (IRCs) to discuss a range of methodological and ethical challenges I faced. IRCs are difficult sites to research because they are institutions characterised by constant flux, and conditions of radical uncertainty and vulnerability can make it difficult to build relationships of trust with participants. Tensions exist in maintaining research access while building a critique of current conditions and practice. This presentation explores these issues by drawing on my discussions with detained individuals about the value of research and the question of resistance to the practice of immigration detention.

SPEAKERS AND ORGANISATIONS

Christine Bacon, Ice&Fire

Christine Bacon is Artistic Director of ice&fire, the only theatre company which places the human rights issues of the day at the core of their work. Before joining ice&fire, Christine completed an MSc in Forced Migration at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University. Her thesis (subsequently published by the RSC as Working paper No.27) looked at how the privatisation of the detention estate in the UK had affected the evolution of the detention regime. At ice&fire, she oversees the coordination of Actors for Human Rights, a national actors network made up of over 700 professional actors that tours rehearsed readings of testimony-based plays such as Asylum Monologues (chronicling the experience of three individuals going through the UK’s asylum process) across the UK, with an explicit agenda of inspiring audiences to take personal action. Directly inspired by this work, a German Actors for Human Rights is now in operation, with over 200 German actors and musicians involved, touring their own version of Asylum Monologues. Christine will speak about her work in relation to the themes of the conference.

See: www.iceandfire.co.uk

Alice Bloch

Alice Bloch is Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester. Recent publications include, Sans Papiers: The social and economic lives of undocumented migrants in the UK (Pluto Press with Nando Sigona and Roger Zetter). She has recently completed an ESRC funded study (2011-14), with Professor Sonia McKay from London Metropolitan University, ‘Undocumented Migrants, Ethnic Enclaves and Networks: Opportunities, traps or class-based constructs’ and is currently working on a project, ‘Children of refugees in Europe: Aspirations, social and economic lives, identity and transnational linkages’ with Milena Chimienti, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland and Professor Catherine Withol De Wenden Sciences Po Paris.

John Grayson

John Grayson is an independent researcher and adult educator. He was Senior Tutor for research at the Northern College for residential adult education until 2006 and taught Housing Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. He lives in Barnsley and is an activist and campaigner with SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group, see www.symaag.org.uk). John has published widely on anti-racist issues for the Institute for Race Relations news service; and on immigration issues, especially on privatisation and asylum housing. He has been involved with the transnational ‘Stop G4S’ activist network.

See: http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson

Alex Hall

Dr Alex Hall is a lecturer in Politics at the University of York. Her research focuses on the international securitisation of mobility and contemporary border politics in the west, drawing on interdisciplinary work from international relations, anthropology and critical security and border studies. She has conducted research into the everyday production and experience of security within immigration detention, and the rise of ‘smart’ e-border targeting systems in the UK and Europe. Alex is currently conducting research on the role of discretion within smart border targeting programmes, as a way of understanding the contemporary working of sovereign power at the border and the international governance of mobility.

Jenna Loyd

Dr Jenna Loyd is an Assistant Professor in Public Health Policy at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, as well as a prison and detention abolitionist activist. She is the author of Health Rights Are Civil Rights: Peace and Justice Activism in Los Angeles, 1963-1978 (2014) and co-editor of Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis (2013). Beyond Walls and Cages takes an explicitly abolitionist and transnational political approach to issues of detention and forced imprisonment. Inspired by Jenna’s activist-scholarship, we are seeking to emulate the philosophy of Beyond Walls and Cages at this conference, with scholars, activists, artists, and the formally imprisoned speaking together form a range of disciplines, experiences and perspectives—from local struggles against immigration detention and strikes and protests against the privatisation of policing and prison-services, to trans-national networks which seek to expose and undo the increasing hold of global securities companies within the fabric of the state.

Alison Mountz

Alison Mountz is professor of Geography and Canada Research Chair in Global Migration, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada. Professor Mountz’s work explores the tension between the decisions, displacements, and desires that drive human migration and the policies and practices designed to manage migration. She is author of Seeking Asylum: Human Smuggling and Bureaucracy at the Border (2011) and leads the ‘Island Detention Project’ http://www.wlu.ca/page.php?grp_id=2599&p=21545

Pa Modou Bojang (Prince)

Pa Modou Bojang (Prince) is the Director of Kibaaro Radio, a journalist, writer and refugee. Prince is also a former immigration detainee and a founding member of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid, a Liverpool based activist organisation comprised of migrant and ‘citizen’ artists, poets, writers and performers.

See: http://migrantartistsmutualaid.wordpress.com/

Eiri Ohtani / Detention Forum

Eiri Ohtani is the Co-ordinator of the Detention Forum in the UK and an independent consultant in the voluntary sector. She has worked with migrants and asylum-seekers for over a decade. A graduate of LSE, she also holds postgraduate degrees from SOAS and Birkbeck, University of London.

The Detention Forum is a network of over 30 NGOs who are working on immigration detention issues. We are working together to build a momentum to question the legitimacy of immigration detention which has become such a normal part of the British immigration system. We are now a membership-based network, a collective of organisations who want to work together to challenge immigration detention. One of the aims of our work is to engage more politicians about this issue. We now host regular Parliamentary Network Meetings on immigration detention twice a year, have written joint letters to influence and individually lobbied local MPs to be more vocal about detention issues.

See: http://detentionforum.wordpress.com

Maja Sager

Dr Maja Sager is a COFAS Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Gender Studies, Lund University and, between 2012 and 2015, a visiting researcher at the Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, UK. Her PhD ‘Everyday Clandestinity: Experiences on the Margins of Citizenship and Migration Policies’ (2011) is based upon an ethnographic study with irregular migrants and migration rights activists and discusses how national belonging, citizenship and social organising are practiced and represented in the Swedish welfare state. Maja is currently undertaking her postdoctoral research with migrant activist groups in the UK, Sweden and Denmark.

 

Sarah Turnbull

Dr Sarah Turnbull is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford. Her current research examines immigration detention and deportation with specific focus on issues of identity, home, and belonging in the context of multicultural, postcolonial Britain. For more information, please see http://bordercriminologies.law.ox.ac.uk/.

WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together),

Over the past year and a half WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) and MISOL (Manchester Migrant solidarity) with SAFETY4SISTERS have organized “SHUT DOWN YARL’S WOOD“ demonstrations and have taken over some of the main squares in Manchester to make our voices heard. These demonstrations and the ongoing fight to highlight the injustice of Yarl’s Wood is in the WAST (10 year) tradition of sharing our experiences, empowering and supporting each other, fighting for our rights, raising awareness about the issues that force women to seek international protection and the effects of the injustices of the UK immigration system.

The WAST choir has always been an important campaigning tool for the group as well as a self-healing positive, sociable and joyous part of the group. The asylum process is set up to be a dehumanizing, isolating and disempowering system for women and WAST, in particular the choir, helps reduce isolation, depression and other mental health problems but has most importantly given members the opportunity to share their amazing talents for singing and harmony with all those who hear them perform.

The latest work of WAST campaigning group is “Still We Rise” which is a performance of dance song, spoken word and drama, the stark realities of life, and the injustices faced, by women seeking sanctuary in the UK. It is written, produced and performed by members of WAST and MISOL, (many of whom have been locked up in Yarl’s Wood themselves) and directed by Magdalen Bartlett. The women of WAST & MISOL express their resilience and resistance to the ultimate inhumanity experienced within the asylum system at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

see http://www.wast.org.uk/

Gillian Whitlock

Gillian Whitlock is a Professor at the University of Queensland, and her scholarly work focuses on life writing and postcolonialism, with an emphasis on contemporary writing. She is currently an ARC Professorial Fellow in the School. The ARC Fellowship (2010-2014) focuses on the archives of asylum seeker letters held in the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland. An interdisciplinary research team is now focusing on these archives and in June-July 2011 a special exhibition at the University of Queensland Art Museum, called ‘Living Archives’ and featuring the work of Professor Ross Gibson, will be on display in association with the research project. Gillian will be speaking at the conference about her work on maritime voyages filmed and narrated by asylum-seekers from within the boats, trucks and planes that transport them.

Life on the Dole for ‘Benefit Broods’ on the Screen: Poverty Porn and the War on Welfare – by Tracey Jensen

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In August this year, Iain Duncan-Smith announced his intentions to get ‘even tougher’ on the welfare system and to further reduce the Household Benefit Cap. The Cap formed a key plank of the Welfare Reform Bill 2012, was endorsed in Parliament in 2013 and finally implemented in April 2014.  It limits the total amount of benefits any household can claim to £500 per week for households with children and £350 for a single adult and is the Coalition’s single most popular policy.  According to a YouGov poll in January 2013, 76% of people surveyed agreed with the Benefit Cap.  Continuing with his project to reduce welfare spending, Duncan-Smith has promised to reduce the Cap even further after the next election if the Conservatives win.

Duncan-Smith positions himself as the courageous reformer of a bloated and out-of-control welfare state, stating in an interview that the previous government ‘spent thirteen years…

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