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Laundered Violence

Laundered Violence

Law and protest in Durham

One of the impressive and now oft-remarked ironies of the present fights is that the people who are accused of wanting to “erase history” are doing more to remind others of history than Ken Burns’s entire oeuvre could do lined up end-to-end. I wonder whether something similar might be happening with the law: that the people who are accused of ignoring and defying it will end up instructing everyone else about how it works.

“<em>I</em> am Ramu”

I am Ramu”

To be an Indian writer means that you’re writing about India. What you’re doing to and with the form won’t determine the terms of critique where you’re concerned.

It’s difficult for the postcolonial, or Indian, artist’s contribution to be discussed in formalist terms, because everything they do—the life they describe, the language they use—becomes the testimony of postcolonial history.

Heather Is a Hero

Heather Is a Hero

Boston protest dispatch

As the morning’s speakers, mostly black and indigenous women, reminded us, we were standing in a gentrifying neighborhood, in a city that remains deeply segregated, in a metro region where rents are rising, on land stolen centuries ago. Boston is a city where, as of 2010, the black median household income was thirty thousand dollars lower than the white median household income. In 2011, over one fifth of black families in Boston were living in poverty, while only 7.1% of white families shared the same fate.

Don't You Hear Her?

Don't You Hear Her?

The enduring Korean War

When “fire and fury” were brought to Korea, they were accompanied by the threat of nuclear weapons. At a press conference on November 30, 1950, President Truman proposed the use of the atomic bomb in Korea to protect a “just and peaceful world order.” On December 9, undone by the unforeseen Chinese offensive, General MacArthur requested the use of twenty-six atomic bombs to counter the attack. On Christmas Eve, MacArthur upped the request to thirty-eight, and in later interviews, would talk about using anywhere from thirty to fifty nuclear warheads.

An Alternate Future for the Mall

An Alternate Future for the Mall

Why shopping centers are booming in Mexico

While malls in the US have been on a steady decline, as the industry deals with the decline in brick-and-mortar sales that bode the “death of retail,” malls in Latin America continue on the rise. This is partially because online shopping has yet to take hold as it has in the US. According to Euromonitor International, in 2016, online sales made up only 2.6 percent of retail sales in Mexico, compared with 10.5 percent in the US. The death of retail—at least for now—isn’t a reality in Latin America.

Baby Goes to Erik’s Hometown

Baby Goes to Erik’s Hometown

I was far more comfortable with grandiose nihilism.

In the living room, three dirty men sat on the floor in front of a television. They were playing a video game on a Nintendo system that looked different than the one I remembered. The game was definitely Super Mario Brothers, but the graphics were too good for Super Mario Brothers, and besides, since when did Mario ride on the back of a green lizard?

The Origin of Endless War

The Origin of Endless War

On Barbara Lee and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force

The AUMF is the War on Terror’s key piece of legislation. The text of the law is brief, beginning with, “Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens,” and ending with an assurance that nothing in it would supersede “any requirement of the War Powers Resolution,” the 1973 law passed (over Nixon’s veto) to prevent any more Presidents from waging undeclared war, as they had for years in Korea and Vietnam.

The Annihilator

The Annihilator

It’s just the President mouthing off again!

The deaths of other people may truly be a matter of utter indifference to Donald Trump. But how does he think of his own death, if he does at all? Certainly his body will fail him, eventually, as it must. And, contra the protestations of his muppet of a doctor, Trump must already feel its growing limits, the indignities of age. But I am hard pressed to think of an occasion where he has spoken of what he hopes his posthumous legacy will be, of how he hopes to be remembered.

Camilla and the Horse

Camilla and the Horse

“This is going to be expensive,” I tell him, “you are conducting an expensive conversation.”

I wish I was Žižek. Žižek can get everything to make sense, if I had been Žižek now, right now, I would be lying in a Punic bordello having a fucking match with Houellebecq, the whores would not be trafficked, just glo-ba-lized—can you hear it being sung by Gregorian monks, or maybe a eunuch: glo-ba-lized pro-sti-tutes.

Sub-Sub-Underground-Anti-Connoisseurship

Sub-Sub-Underground-Anti-Connoisseurship

Adrift with Allan Sekula

When Sekula died of cancer in August 2013 at age sixty-two, he left behind a remarkable legacy as a photographer, filmmaker, art historian, activist, and educator, though only a fairly small—albeit distinguished—tribe of artists and academics has taken stock of it. Much of his work is united by a consistent interest: wherever capitalism sought to hawk the fantasy of an immaterial economy, or to hide its stink in refrigerated shipping freight, Sekula made it his artistic practice to visualize and to describe its mechanisms of concealment.

Irregular Order

Irregular Order

Why Congress can’t work

The repeal bill still sits on the calendar, but the Republican Party still has no idea what to do about healthcare in any serious way. Their majority is small enough that the procedures in Congress gummed up the works, at least so far. But that may not last forever. Its elites want tax cuts. They accept a mass base that wants ethnonationalism. That fateful embrace is the central fact in contemporary American politics. The consequences go beyond legislative output in Congress to endanger the system itself. Far more than the first branch of government is tied up in the fate of the Republican Party.

The Way It Hemmed You In

The Way It Hemmed You In

Soldiers, trigger-fingers, and nerves in Palestine

The violence had been minor, in the grand scheme of things, though unprovoked. Yet the figure of the masked man, prowling round the car, seemed to stand in for a much greater violence. The texture of it is hard to capture, but it suffuses Palestinians’ experiences of the occupation. It is the violence of that moment in which your life is not your own, in which a car full of young people on the way home from a night out, flushed with all the pleasure of youth, is transformed into a threat, and they haven’t even realized.

Beat the Clock

Beat the Clock

I can tell he is not used to a woman standing up to him, to a female player who understands contract law.

The life of the female athlete overseas is scattered and obscure, a private and difficult endeavor experienced by only a handful of people at a time. Most of us are not on a national team, and cable TV cameras are rare—so rare that they don’t usually appear at all.

What is Community Justice?

What is Community Justice?

Mama's Bailout Day and other bottom-up interventions in everyday justice

Existing options for criminal justice participation focus too heavily on the decorum of deliberation. Much like the system they protect, they equate disruption with criminality and reinforcing the inequalities that reforms try to dismantle. Relying on deliberation and consensus ignores the ways in which our current criminal justice system relegates African-Americans and other marginalized populations to non-democratic subjects—not just through literal disenfranchisement of individuals with criminal records, but also through doctrine, policy, and rhetoric. And a focus on seeking consensus may lead us to privilege discourse that repeats rather than re-envisions our reigning ideas of what criminal justice should look like.

Cankerworms

Cankerworms

Mothering is not only gathering together; it is also letting go, dropping one’s grasp—accidentally, ideally, but dropping it nevertheless.

“Here I was, enjoying a continuity of being.” The big sphere of my baby’s head was very much like a circle, and when he felt like he was falling, his little arms and legs jerked upwards, like their propulsion could push him back to his starting point. Because I was not a not-good-enough mother, this didn’t happen very often, but I winced every time it did, nevertheless. The difficulty of maternal gathering is that it is always going to fail. To grow—to become a person—the baby must get past his earliest, balloon-like self. He must separate himself into a head and a body, then a head, a body, and arms. The project is not solely separating the baby from his mother; it is separating the baby from himself. Building a version of self that can acknowledge its hands and feet. Its mind, within, and its skin, without.

Heads without Bodies

Heads without Bodies

Trump has grafted his head onto our collective body, with his horror-movie hairdo always in our face.

Earlier in his career, in 1989, when he was merely a rich gasbag and an annoyance, Trump bought a big ad in the New York Times so he could publicly call for the executions of the Central Park Five, young black men accused and convicted of assault and rape. The men were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2002 and released from prison. They sued the City of New York and won. Trump went out of his way last year to let voters know he still believed they were guilty. This is how he thrives. Now he has grafted his head onto our collective body, with his horror-movie hairdo always in our face. Trump’s head is struggling to control our actions and responses the same way Milland’s head struggled to control Grier’s body in this cheap movie. The devil finds work where he can. The Thing with Two Heads was too dumb to be noticed by James Baldwin in his book-length essay on race and the movies, and I had to go to Canada to run into it. Now it’s the kind of stupid we live with every day.

Converts to Abortion Rights

Converts to Abortion Rights

Dr. Willie Parker’s new book attempts the unusual and difficult task of reconciling support for abortion rights and abiding religious belief.

The word “conversion” fits the abortion-rights cause awkwardly. There is no progressive equivalent to Priests for Life, a website cataloging the stories of sidewalk protesters-turned-Planned Parenthood donors. Abortion rights were, in the beginning, a public health issue. Opponents started framing the cause in moral terms—something that defenders were at pains to avoid. The president of the Association for the Study of Abortion, Jimmye Kimmey, is credited for coming up with the phrase “pro-choice” in 1972. She preferred, she wrote in a memo, because “what we are concerned with is, to repeat, the woman’s right to choose—not with her right (or anyone else’s right) to make a judgment about whether that choice is morally licit.”

No One Thinks of Rilke in the Recovery Room

No One Thinks of Rilke in the Recovery Room

All mothers die eventually, but it doesn’t follow that motherhood is like dying.

But while birth can lead to being close to death, it seems wrong to think that the crisis of birth is anything like death. All mothers die eventually, but it doesn’t follow that motherhood is like dying, even if one almost dies—or does die— while becoming a mother. What makes the comparison inviting is that the work of laboring is such that the versions of yourself you held dear until labor begin to dissolve. There’s no quality to the thought or feeling while laboring or immediately after giving birth. One just is. No one thinks of Rilke in the recovery room. The child, once born, is human, no more, no less. No one is truly quiet giving birth.

Not a Techno-Thriller

Not a Techno-Thriller

The Volkswagen scandal was more diffuse, technical and tedious than most journalists allow.

Scandal always captivates, and the VW news captivated Americans for months—even those Americans who usually skip past the automobile section. Reporters like Ewing published updates nearly every day. John Oliver even jumped aboard with a comedy bit mocking the German language and ended with the line, “Hitler trusted us, why won’t you?” With the market prepared, Faster, Higher, Farther has been published simultaneously in English and German, and the author has been appearing on the morning shows to talk corporate scandal. Leonardo DiCaprio bought the movie rights.

Newborn

Newborn

To tell you the truth, my son creeped me out.

There wasn’t even anywhere for him to sleep. So he built a nesty thing in the kitchen, out of shredded newspaper and strips torn from the couch fabric. At night, when I came downstairs to fill a glass of water or pick at the fridge, his olive-green eye-stalks protruded from a heap of fluff and detritus. They drifted back and forth in time to his silent breathing.

Hear Our Voice

Hear Our Voice

Zadie Smith and the problem of her single story

When black people in America are three times as likely as white people to be killed by police it becomes hard to argue that there is no clear distinction between black and white life. But Zadie Smith suggests otherwise: her ultimate argument rejecting the notion of any one group owning black pain stems from her assertion that Americans are one, that “‘us’ and ‘them’” narratives are “therapeutic,” but ultimately a “cheap gag.” It’s a galling dismissal of the brutal reality of black lives in America, where white mass murderers are apprehended alive while black unarmed citizens are arbitrarily killed. I would imagine that Kalief Browder’s family might think differently, that the black teenagers on Rikers Island, arrested without trial, held in jail and coerced into confessions might think differently. The so-called “super-predators” who became victims of the Clinton “three strikes” bill and now fill America’s prisons might think differently.

Disrupt the Citizen

Disrupt the Citizen

Against ride-sharing

The proliferating but ever meaningless distinctions between the “bad” Uber and the “good” Lyft have obscured how destructive the rise of ride-sharing has been for workers and the cities they live in. The predatory lawlessness that prevails inside Valley workplaces scales up and out. Both companies entered their markets illegally, without regard to prevailing wages, regulations, or taxes. Like Amazon, which found a way to sell books without sales tax, this turned out to be one of the many illegal boons.

Laundered Violence

Laundered Violence

Law and protest in Durham

One of the impressive and now oft-remarked ironies of the present fights is that the people who are accused of wanting to “erase history” are doing more to remind others of history than Ken Burns’s entire oeuvre could do lined up end-to-end. I wonder whether something similar might be happening with the law: that the people who are accused of ignoring and defying it will end up instructing everyone else about how it works.

“<em>I</em> am Ramu”

I am Ramu”

To be an Indian writer means that you’re writing about India. What you’re doing to and with the form won’t determine the terms of critique where you’re concerned.

It’s difficult for the postcolonial, or Indian, artist’s contribution to be discussed in formalist terms, because everything they do—the life they describe, the language they use—becomes the testimony of postcolonial history.

Heather Is a Hero

Heather Is a Hero

Boston protest dispatch

As the morning’s speakers, mostly black and indigenous women, reminded us, we were standing in a gentrifying neighborhood, in a city that remains deeply segregated, in a metro region where rents are rising, on land stolen centuries ago. Boston is a city where, as of 2010, the black median household income was thirty thousand dollars lower than the white median household income. In 2011, over one fifth of black families in Boston were living in poverty, while only 7.1% of white families shared the same fate.

Don't You Hear Her?

Don't You Hear Her?

The enduring Korean War

When “fire and fury” were brought to Korea, they were accompanied by the threat of nuclear weapons. At a press conference on November 30, 1950, President Truman proposed the use of the atomic bomb in Korea to protect a “just and peaceful world order.” On December 9, undone by the unforeseen Chinese offensive, General MacArthur requested the use of twenty-six atomic bombs to counter the attack. On Christmas Eve, MacArthur upped the request to thirty-eight, and in later interviews, would talk about using anywhere from thirty to fifty nuclear warheads.

An Alternate Future for the Mall

An Alternate Future for the Mall

Why shopping centers are booming in Mexico

While malls in the US have been on a steady decline, as the industry deals with the decline in brick-and-mortar sales that bode the “death of retail,” malls in Latin America continue on the rise. This is partially because online shopping has yet to take hold as it has in the US. According to Euromonitor International, in 2016, online sales made up only 2.6 percent of retail sales in Mexico, compared with 10.5 percent in the US. The death of retail—at least for now—isn’t a reality in Latin America.

Baby Goes to Erik’s Hometown

Baby Goes to Erik’s Hometown

I was far more comfortable with grandiose nihilism.

In the living room, three dirty men sat on the floor in front of a television. They were playing a video game on a Nintendo system that looked different than the one I remembered. The game was definitely Super Mario Brothers, but the graphics were too good for Super Mario Brothers, and besides, since when did Mario ride on the back of a green lizard?

The Origin of Endless War

The Origin of Endless War

On Barbara Lee and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force

The AUMF is the War on Terror’s key piece of legislation. The text of the law is brief, beginning with, “Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens,” and ending with an assurance that nothing in it would supersede “any requirement of the War Powers Resolution,” the 1973 law passed (over Nixon’s veto) to prevent any more Presidents from waging undeclared war, as they had for years in Korea and Vietnam.

The Annihilator

The Annihilator

It’s just the President mouthing off again!

The deaths of other people may truly be a matter of utter indifference to Donald Trump. But how does he think of his own death, if he does at all? Certainly his body will fail him, eventually, as it must. And, contra the protestations of his muppet of a doctor, Trump must already feel its growing limits, the indignities of age. But I am hard pressed to think of an occasion where he has spoken of what he hopes his posthumous legacy will be, of how he hopes to be remembered.

Camilla and the Horse

Camilla and the Horse

“This is going to be expensive,” I tell him, “you are conducting an expensive conversation.”

I wish I was Žižek. Žižek can get everything to make sense, if I had been Žižek now, right now, I would be lying in a Punic bordello having a fucking match with Houellebecq, the whores would not be trafficked, just glo-ba-lized—can you hear it being sung by Gregorian monks, or maybe a eunuch: glo-ba-lized pro-sti-tutes.

Sub-Sub-Underground-Anti-Connoisseurship

Sub-Sub-Underground-Anti-Connoisseurship

Adrift with Allan Sekula

When Sekula died of cancer in August 2013 at age sixty-two, he left behind a remarkable legacy as a photographer, filmmaker, art historian, activist, and educator, though only a fairly small—albeit distinguished—tribe of artists and academics has taken stock of it. Much of his work is united by a consistent interest: wherever capitalism sought to hawk the fantasy of an immaterial economy, or to hide its stink in refrigerated shipping freight, Sekula made it his artistic practice to visualize and to describe its mechanisms of concealment.