In the last week, I was lucky enough to present The Funambulist Magazine in Tokyo (October 7 at Vacant) and Hong Kong (October 13 at Kubrick) along with friends Christina Yi and Momoyo Homma on the one hand, and Tings Chak and Sonia Wong on the other (see the two posters at the end of this post). The following recordings were made during these two events but, due to a (classic) mistake of my own, the recordings do not include my own presentation in Tokyo (listen to the HK one instead), nor the first ten minutes of Christina’s presentation; I apologize to her and to you for such a silly mistake.Read more
Exceptionally, and for the political reasons I have explained here, the photographs presented here are under copyright and should be asked for a written authorization to be republished.
Two days ago, I had the opportunity to go back to Calais along with a small group of students and professors (Vibeke Jensen and Anders Rubing) from the architecture school of Bergen. This visit happened a few days after French Ministry of Interior Bernard Cazeneuve met with Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart, vowing to demolish the so-called “Jungle” and relocate its residents in various hosting centers throughout the country. Such announcement came a few days after another one, made by Robert Goodwill, the Immigration Minister of the new Theresa May UK government: two weeks ago, he announced that a new 4-meter tall wall was about to be built in Calais along the highway leading to the port — the construction started yesterday. This comes as an additional layer of militarization of the port’s vicinity that already counts numerous police cars, CCTV cameras and two to three layers of 4-meter tall barbed wire fences (see photographs below). The cynicism that consists in investing millions of euros/pounds into these drastic policing measures and their violence, rather than offering accommodation to the thousands who fled war — an important amount of the “Jungle” residents are now coming from Darfour — or other extremely dire situations, reach new levels with the construction of this wall, which is planned to be dressed with “plants and flowers on one side to reduce its visual impact on the local area” (source: The Guardian).
My arguments on the matter have not changed (see the report of the first trip, as well as of the second one): our position should be less articulated in humanitarian terms than in political ones. The premise of such a position consists in the categorical denial that the situation constitutes a crisis, on the contrary of what is described at length through the press and politician (left and right) speeches. The only crisis there is, is the one displaced persons themselves are experiencing. The second premise of this position is another refusal: one that goes against the collective Western imaginary that consider displaced persons as a negative currency, disincarnated statistics whose winner is the one that gets the least of it. It also turns around the liberal critique: the Calais’ “Jungle” is not a place symptomatic of the lack of action of the French and UK States, which makeshift dwellings never reached a satisfying level of comfort and dignity because of their residents’ lack of skills: it is a place symptomatic of the actual action of the French and UK States, which makeshift dwellings never reached a satisfying level of comfort of dignity because of the way their residents have been consistently prevented to undertake the construction of a proper urban entity. The antagonizing and patronizing aridity of the container camp, and its heavily controlled access (by palm recognition, through turnstiles) appears as the only architecture legitimized by the French State: a space where bodies are treated as mere statistics with only minimum needs, and where they can be controlled spatially. At a time where sulfurous candidate to the presidential primaries of the French Republican party and former President Nicolas Sarkozy affirmed (erroneously) that when one becomes French one’s ancestors becomes the Gauls — a fictitious people as a whole coined by the Roman invaders in the first century B.C. to designate the totality of the nations under Roman domination in the West of the Empire — we might want to use the trivial imaginary he implies (the popular graphic novel series, Asterix) of a Gaul village besieged by Roman invaders to construct a comparison with the situation of Calais’ “Jungle.” The Gauls may not look the way Sarkozy and other French nationalists might think in this case, but they would be well inspired to see in the resistance of this village against the drastic means deployed against them, the legitimacy they have no trouble to romantically attribute to those they believe to be their ancestors.Read more
As I am currently working on the next issue of The Funambulist Magazine dedicated to the Police, I encountered this very interesting news from Seattle. Yesterday (September 15, 2016) evening, “Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and three City Council members said they’re abandoning plans to push through up to $149 million in funding for a brand new police station in North Seattle during this fall’s budget negotiations” (source: The Stranger). This decision follows the political work engaged by Black Lives Matter in general, and the inspiring campaign #BlockTheBunker started by the Seattle Black Book Club a few months ago in particular. The four points on this campaign’s agenda are remarkably clear and engaged in radical transformatory politics:
On September 9, 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video in which he affirms that the evacuation of the Israeli civil settlements in the West Bank in the context of the creation of the State of Palestine would constitutes “ethnic cleansing.” These remarks were received with outrage by many defenders of the Palestinian narrative, coming from the head of a State that was created on the ethnic cleansing of over 800,000 Palestinians in 1948, whose families now constitute over 5 millions refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Even the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau judged unequivocally the use of such a term as inappropriate in the context of settlements whose very existence is relatively consensually condemned at an international level. In a column written for Al Jazeera, Funambulist-contributors Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon deconstruct perfectly such a discourse:
Through his Facebook video [Netanyahu] transforms the colonising settler into the victim of human rights abuses and the subjected Palestinians into the perpetrators who are ostensibly supported – unjustly, according to this distorted logic – by the international community. This, to be sure, is a very strange form of human rights: It is the human rights of a dominant ethnic group whose dominance has been instituted precisely through the expulsion and subjugation of Palestinians. Furthermore, decolonisation becomes a crime against humanity, and the global discourse of human rights is turned into a tool for advancing domination. (“Portrait of an occupation: Human rights of the settler,” September 12, 2016)
The argument that I would like to make here is however slightly different and consists firstly in a critique of our outrage as being fully part (if not the main object) of Netanyahu’s strategy and, secondly, in the paradoxical recognition that the Israeli Prime Minister might, in fact, have a point when he evokes the notion of ethnic cleansing — admittedly, that’s a “hear-me-out!” type of argument.Read more
Two Caterpillar bulldozers at work (right: Rafah, Palestine in 2002, left: Standing Rock, ND on Native sacred burial ground in 2016)
Since April 1, 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, later followed by over 200 other Native nations, has been occupying the sacred site of Standing Rock in order to protect it against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (named after the two American States, not the Native nation of course), which would carry Bakken crude from North Dakota to Illinois. Yesterday (September 8), North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has called for the U.S. National Guard to intervene at Standing Rock a few hours before the ruling of a lawsuit that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has brought against the U.S. government. A few days earlier, some Native organizers had been attacked by dogs ordered by private security force, and bulldozers had demolished a sacred burial ground (see the Democracy Now report here).
In looking at the right part of the photograph above illustrating this deliberate profanation, you will recognize the well-known yellow worn by all non-customized Caterpillar construction (or rather, destruction) equipment on what appears to be D8 bulldozers. Condemning Caterpillar for actions committed in the context of a State’s infrastructural construction can appear as far fetched at first glance — we will see in the last paragraph that it is actually not — but this 90-year old American company is also renowned for its numerous contracts with the U.S. Army, and has no problem to display its support to the “armed forces” on its website:Read more
After the first year of existence of The Funambulist Magazine that examined the politics of militarized cities, the suburbs, clothing, prisons, structurally racist designs, and objects, I am delighted to begin this second year with an issue dedicated to health-related political struggles. This 7th issue opens with a new recurrent section entitled “Political Walks” that asks a contributor to introduce us to a meaningful pathway in a given city — in this case, Alex Shams about Tehran. The three guest column of the general sections are dedicated to the denial of citizenry that Japan attribute to the Korean (and Taiwanese) members of its society (Christina Yi), a report on the situation of women’s rights in post-invasion Iraq (Zahra Ali), as well as a personal account on the recent night that saw a coup failing in Turkey, as well as the following days (Merve Bedir). The main dossier, “Health Struggles,” does not approach the concept of health merely as that which prevents a body from dying but, rather, as the most incarnate level of politics since it tend to mobilize the very biologies of the bodies it takes for object. For this same reason, it is also a domain where the norm shows the highest degrees of crystalization in its stigmatization of some bodies over others.
The dossier begins with six significant vignettes approaching various aspects of this topic: the 2014 Ebola Quarantine in the neighborhood of West Point in Monrovia, Liberia, the work of Alondra Nelson about the alternative healthcare program of the Black Panther Party in the 1970s, the hospital as an architecture of control, the former French-Muslim hospital of Bobigny, the use of medical expertise in the asylum process in France, as well as the work of Paul B. Preciado around the gradual use of testosterone. The main articles involve the designation of abject bodies in the way the city is thought and designed (Blanca Pujals), he Texan regulations on abortion clinics that poorly disguise their antagonism against them (Lori Brown), the hunger strikes undertaken in political prisons from Guantanamo to Turkey (Banu Bargu), the criminalization of HIV positive Black and/or Queer bodies in the United States (Che Gossett), as well as the ‘pathologization’ of Disabled and/or Female bodies enabled by medical discourses (Noémie Aulombard). Exceptionally, the podcast transcript and the photographic section have merged to serve a long interview of Momoyo Homma about the work of artists/poets/architects Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins. The issue ends with two student projects related to the topic, a look at clinical characteristics in architecture (Piergianna Mazzocca) and a bacterial kit for DIY gynecology (Giulia Tomasello).
A new commercial aspect of this second year is a simplification: the printed version of the magazine (including the monthly and annual subscriptions) will always be complemented with the digital version. With this in mind, here are the different ways to acquire this new issue:
Talking about partner bookstores, it is also my pleasure to announce that the various partnerships with bookstores of Southern/Eastern Europe and the Global South proposing the magazine for a more accessible price (indexed on the cost of life of the concerned country) have started in Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria, Morocco, Portugal, Croatia, Pakistan, Singapore, and Hong Kong (and soon in Lebanon). If you are aware of bookstores that would be interested to be part of this specific program, you can send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!Read more
On May 19-21 2016, the Akademie der Künste in Berlin hosted a 36-hour long conference entitled “Public Space: Fights and Fictions: a 36-hour Factory of Thought,” dedicated the politics of public space, organized in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut. The numerous keynote lectures, roundtables and performances involved the participation of many architects, urban planners, artists, journalists, and other thinkers from both the Global North and Global South. Along with good friends of New South, Meriem Chabani and John Edom, I was invited to curate a publication built upon the discussions that seemed the most relevant to our respective work’ editorial line. The result is the publication below, grouping interviews we did of contributors to the conference (Eyal Weizman, Nana Dusei-Poku, Cooking Sections, Omar Nagati, Ana Dana Beroš, Pedro Gadanho), as well as short essays by others (Anna Minton, Tentative Collective, Elpida Karaba, Mona Fawaz & Ahmad Gharbieh, Kathrin Röggla, Ethel Baraona Pohl). We hope that you will enjoy the editorial result of this collaboration and would like to thank Julia Albani, Nicola Beissner, Joachim Bernauer, Karin Lelonek, Johannes Odenthal, Joanne Pouzenc, and Andrea Zell for this opportunity. You can read the publication below or download freely the PDF version by clicking here.
Public Space: Fights and Fictions. An Editorial Project by The Funambulist and New South commissioned by the Akademie der Künste and the Goethe-Institut (Paris-Berlin, 2016).Read more
At a moment when many eyes are turned towards France and the violent relation of the State, its police and the law with its Muslim citizens, in particular women, it seemed very important to me to place in open-access the transcript of this interview with Nacira Guénif-Souilamas that was originally published in the fifth issue of The Funambulist Magazine, dedicated to Design & Racism (May-June 2016). It is crucial to understand that what is currently unfolding on the French marina beaches, with the explicit agreement of the Prime Minister Manuel Valls (despite the fact that the mayors who took a ban on Muslim’s full-body swimwear belong to the opposition), is only the exacerbated spectacle of processes that are born with coloniality and have been operative since then. This conversation helps placing the current events into the historical and contemporary context of French post-colonial residents’ daily lives in a society structurally designed against them. It was originally recorded on April 11, 2016, in University of Paris VIII (Saint-Denis) for The Funambulist’s podcast, Archipelago. Nacira Guénif-Souilamas is an anthropologist and sociologist, author and editor of four books examining structural racism in France. Such a specific system of legal targeting, administrative discrimination, urbanistic discrimination, stigmatizing imaginaries, etc. is the topic of this conversation. Photo: Marche de la Dignité et contre le Racisme in Paris on October 31, 2015, organized by the MAFED, a group of female racialized activists including Nacira herself (second from the left) / Photograph by Nwak (MWASI).Read more
A few days ago, Mayor of Cannes David Lisnard promulgated a formal ban on full-body swimsuits worn by some Muslim women on the city’s beaches — these swimsuits are oddly designated as “burkini” when the apparel seems to be a beach equivalent of the chador, not of the burka. The ban stipulates “Access to beaches and for swimming is banned to any person wearing improper clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism.” This sentencing regulates the amount of epidermic surface that should be exposed, while strongly recalling phrasing we usually encounter that fixes the amount of epidermic surface that should not be exposed, proving if need be that these two unjunctions although seemingly opposed are, in fact, the same. As it was already the case for the 2010 French legislation forbidding anyone to have their face dissimulated in public space (see past article), explicitly drafted against Muslim women wearing the burka or the niqab, we could insist on the demagogic dimension of such laws, targeting a significantly small amount of persons to engineer an electoral spectacle. Then again, we should also examine them for their deeper signification and what they reveal about the way the French society is still operating on its colonial bases. It would be indeed a mistake to read this recent municipal ban through the spectrum of a recent European “resurgence” of discriminatory policies, some of which have to do with the over-mediatization of the few dozens of thousands of migrants and refugees whose bodies have been used as a recurrent televisual material for the last recent months, some others with the ongoing State of Emergency in France (one of the reasons invoked by the Mayor). When it comes to French islamophobic and racist politics, in particular the colonial fetish constructed around the colonized woman’s mode of being and mode of dress, the logics behind them are to be found deeper into history.
On May 13, 1958, the French colonial authorities in Algeria organized the spectacle of Algerian Muslim women ceremonially taking off their veil and burning it in the demonstration of liberation from the patriarchy — a liberation that colonization would have supposedly enabled. This event was probably in Frantz Fanon’s mind when he wrote the first chapter of his book L’an V de la revolution algerienne (“The Fifth Year of the Algerian Revolution,” translated into A Dying Colonialism, 1959), entitled “Algeria unveiled”:Read more
Police checkpoint filtering the access to the June 23 demonstration in Paris / All photographs by Léopold Lambert (2016)
This article is written in the continuity of two others that described the relationship of the French State and its police with the numerous demonstrations organized in opposition to the new labor law project since March 2016. While the first one, “Police Brutality Is a Hollow Term” (May 31, 2016) insisted that we should not look at police violence as a punctual (and rare) episode of spectacular force, but rather as the very function of the police experienced in particular by the banlieues residents, the second one, “Architecture Under Attack” (June 16, 2016) was examining the demagogic instrumentalization of the (minor) damages caused on the Necker Children Hospital in Paris during one of the June 14 demonstration. This present article considers the demonstration that followed the latter, as the potential paradigm of the future spaces of protest in our cities, in particular when such measures are deployed during a neocolonial (now newly-renewed) State of Emergency.
The political context described in the article cited above is important to understand this present one. Strengthen by its dubious spectacle produced through the images of broken bank and advertising windows that the June 14 demonstration caused through a faction of so-called “casseurs” (breakers), the government granted as only option for the June 23 demonstration a static gathering on the Place de la Bastille in Paris. Such a proposition by the government and the police prefecture was categorically declined by the seven unions organizing the demonstration — the largest one being the Confédération Generale du Travail (CGT) — which led the police prefecture to ban the demonstration altogether on June 22, triggering an outrage from all citizens attached to the right of protest. A few hours later however, an agreement was found between the unions and the government to organize the march from and towards the Place de la Bastille by looping its trajectory around the Port de l’Arsenal in a total length of 1.5 kilometer, as the two maps below illustrate. In agreeing to this option, the unions may have thought to save their face but committed instead to a dangerous precedent.Read more