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Algerian women during French colonisation1

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”:

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Police chekpoints Paris - Photo by Leopold Lambert

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.

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march from civic center

As we learn everyday about new arbitrary murders of Native and Black bodies in the United States by primarily white police officers, it seems crucial to bring as much information and reflection on the table in order to act in solidarity of the various political movements organized against this immune machine of death. One key element of the conversation consists in the recognition that these murders are not punctual accidents caused by racist police officers but, rather, the most extreme form of a violence legitimized and designed by the State (see past article “Police Brutality Is a Hollow Term”). The historical relationship of Native and Black bodies with the U.S. State (both at federal and state level) are therefore important to consider in order to understand how the police institution has been designed against them from the beginning of the United States’ formation and continues today its murderous function. The following text gives us such an important account of Native life and death in a “border town” of South Dakota. Written by Nick Estes for the fifth issue of The Funambulist Magazine: Design & Racism, we both felt that it was important to share it with as many people as possible here. You can also download the article as it is laid out in the magazine itself by clicking here.

Off the Reservation: Lakota Life and Death in Rapid City, South Dakota by Nick Estes

On December 19, 2014, thirty-year old Lakota man Allen Locke along with hundreds of Lakota people gathered for a Native Lives Matter rally at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota to demand justice and answers for rampant police violence against Natives in the city. The next day, Rapid City police knocked at the door of an address in the low-income housing development, Lakota Homes. As the name suggests, this neighborhood in the city’s north side is home to a majority of urban Lakota residents. That night, police responded to a call to remove Locke after a domestic dispute. Dispatched officer Anthony Meirose entered the residence and, later, an intoxicated Locke allegedly said to him, “It’s a good day to die” before charging the officer with a steak knife. Meirose believed he had no other choice but to shoot Locke five times, killing him in the kitchen within earshot of his family. The South Dakota Attorney General’s office ruled the shooting “justified,” stressing what Locke allegedly said before Meirose killed him implying suicide by cop. The consensus by law enforcement and the local media was: on the one hand, if Locke wanted to die that day, police were not at fault; on the other hand, if he did not want to die, then he surely was “dying” like so many Natives — a belief that naturalizes the myth of the disappearing Indian. There is no more stereotypical colonial encounter than one between police and the “drunk Indian.” In this scenario, a violent death was expected if not inevitable.

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08''
“The Rule of Walls: An Architectural Reading of the State’s ‘Legitimate’ Use of Violence”
Lecture given on May 18, 2016 at the Warwick Political Geography Conference

The notion of “legitimate use of violence” by the state, although far from new, still allows an understanding of the way our societies operate, according to a particular societal order. The punctual action of the police is often used to illustrate this notion, but the structures that condition it rarely incorporate architecture as a key actor. This lecture therefore proposes to examine this state violence through the scope of architecture using several examples: the state of emergency and the neo-colonial police stations of the Paris banlieues (suburbs), the foreseeable policed gentrification of Molenbeek in Brussels, the dehumanizing walls and container camp of Calais. Although emerging from significantly different political contexts, these case studies have in common that they implement themselves through architecture, using the latter’s intrinsic violence in order to force a political order on bodies.

A big “thank you” to Aya Nassar, Mara Duer, Antonio Ferraz de Oliveira, Maria Eugenia Giraudo, and Javier Moreno Zacarés for their kind invitation, as well as to Stuart Elden for his introduction.

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DipSocialKlub

Image above – Street art by Dip Social Klub at Nuit Debout: “The police violence you are currently experiencing, it exists in the banlieues for more than thirty years.” “Homage to all the victims of police crimes.” “The dance of suffering.”

In an interview with Christina Heatherton and Jordan T. Camp featured in their book, Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (Verso, 2016, soon on Archipelago), Naomi Murakawa states the following:

The terminology we use betrays the notion that policing at its core is acceptable, that it only becomes a problem when things go awry. But let’s be clear: there is no such thing as racial profiling. To say the police are profiling suggests the possibility that there could be colorblind policing. There never has been, and the social order in which we live means there never could be. “Police brutality” is also a hollow term, in the sense that all police interactions, by definition, occur under the threat of brutality.

This last passage, as well as the rest of the interview and the rest of the book, is extremely helpful to think of the current spectacular violence we are witnessing in France in the interaction between the police and strikers/demonstrators against the project of a legislation project that would regulate labor to the detriment of workers. An important part of the media and politicians have insisted that police officers were the victims of many actions of “casseurs” (literally, “breakers”) organized against them. This discursive stigmatization allowed the French government to order the legal exclusion of nine people from the area where a police demonstration was being held on May 18 to protest against “anti-cop hatred” — the police here lost an opportunity to protest instead against the long extra hours they have been asked to provide since the January 2015 attacks. Although this order was broken in courts — the suspicion against these nine persons to organize actions against the police was fund to be funded on nothing — we can see how the imaginary provided by most press outlets associated to the executive power of the ongoing state of emergency can deploy its arbitrary violence on targeted bodies.

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Cover Design & Racism

It is my great pleasure to announce the release of the fifth issue of The Funambulist Magazine (May-June 2016) as well as its formal launch event in New York on May 4th. It is dedicated to a tremendously important topic that had been an underlying theme of many articles in the four first issues, but embraces here its entire primacy: the relationship between design and racism. Design tends to crystallize and reinforce the normative relationships between bodies in a given society, often to the point of materializing racist political programs. The issue is composed of articles, interview and projects describing the active contribution of design to structural racism in Palestine, the United States, France, South Africa, and Europe. The contributors are Eze Imade Eribo, Rasheedah Phillips, Nick Estes, Miriam Ticktin, Lwandile Fikeni, Nicola Perugini, Neve Gordon, Nacira Guénif-Souilamas, Alicia Olushola Ajayi, Whitney Hansley, Claire Lubell, and Melisa Betts, as well as Sinthujan Varatharajah and Yaşar Adnan Adanalı who both wrote guest columns that precede the main dossier.

The formal launch event will occur in New York on May 4th, 7PM at 61 Local (61 Bergen street, Brooklyn, NY). It will first consist in a presentation of the issue by editor-in-chief Léopold Lambert accompanied by contributor Alicia Olushola Ajayi, followed by a roundtable about the topic with Christina Heatherton, Hadeel Khalil Assali, and Minh-Ha T. Pham. The issue will be available for purchase.

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Léopold Lambert - Topie Impitoyable - Illustrations by Loredana Micu

3 of the 13 drawings for Topie Impitoyable by Loredana Micu

Topie Impitoyable: The Corporeal Politics of the Cloth, the Wall, and the Street published by punctum books, 2016.

As announced a few days ago, I have a second book being published almost simultaneously with the first one, La politique du bulldozer (B2, 2016). Written (exceptionally) in French in 2014, this volume attempts to articulate a certain amount of ideas gathered under Michel Foucault’s phrase, “Mon corps, topie impitoyable” (“My body, merciless landscape” — topie impitoyable was kept as such for its alliterative qualities, pronounce it out loud to hear it!). It was then illustrated by friend Loredana Micu and translated into English by Anna Klosowska, and it is now published in its bilingual version by punctum books with which The Funambulist has been repeatedly collaborating these three last years.

Topie Impitoyable: The Corporeal Politics of the Cloth, the Wall, and the Street is more invested in raising the question of what a body is than in offering a definitive answer. Instead, it questions some stereotypes concerning structures located at various degrees of proximity to the body’s material assemblage, allowing a better integration of the surrounding objects, atmosphere and other bodies and proposing a political reading of their relationship to the body, whether deliberate or accidental. From the hoodie that Trayvon Martin wore when he was killed, to the streets of New York City during Occupy Wall Street and the apartheid wall in Palestine, this book moves through a series of episodes that illustrate how bodies and objects of all sizes are enmeshed in deeply entangled political relationships.

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Grande Synthe - Calais - Two camps - Photos by Léopold Lambert

Important Note: As usual when it comes to such topics, I decided to reserve all rights when it comes to the photographs presented in this article (other pictures that I publish on this blog are licensed under creative commons), as I’m wary that their use could be instrumentalized for political ideologies with which I fundamentally disagree. If you would like to use them, feel free to send me an email to ask for authorization (info.funambulistATgmailDOTcom).

I drove back to Grande Synthe and Calais yesterday, in company of friend Merve Bedir (listen to our conversation for Archipelago) in order to document the new refugee camp of Grande Synthe (see below), as well as the massive demolitions that reduced Calais’ so-called “Jungle” of half its size a few weeks ago. Merve and I have agreed to both establish a report for The Funambulist insisting on our subjective vision of this visit during which we saw the same things but, necessarily, from two different points of view — the photographs we took bring an additional layer of subjectivity to the texts. This article is therefore specifically dedicated to the comparison of the two official camps that have been built in Calais and Grande Synthe. The reason for this is that both materialize into architecture a governmental (whether national or local) political program in which migrant and refugee bodies and lives are the object. Although this article will be constructed in a comparative, and therefore negotiative, mode between both camps, one should not forget the fundamental common point of both sites: the fact that they are and remain camps and, as such, an extremely problematic architecture/urbanistic typology, as we will see in the conclusion.

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La Politique du Bulldozer - Léopold Lambert 2016

It has been a little while since I knew that two new books I wrote would be published around the same time. While the second one will exist in bilingual French/English version (more about it in the coming days), this first one, La politique du bulldozer: La ruine palestinienne comme projet israélien (Bulldozer Politics: The Palestinian Ruin as an Israeli Architectural Project) was just published in French by B2 Editions. Here is a translation of the index:

  • Introduction
  • July 22, 2014 in GAZA: The Ruins of the Continuous Siege
  • July 1, 2014 in IDHNA: Punitive Demolition of Homes
  • Interlude: Caterpillar D9 Bulldozer
  • April 10, 2002 in JENIN: The Bulldozer Used as a Weapon of War
  • July 1971 in RAFAH: The So-called “Pacification” of Gaza by Ariel Sharon
  • July 18, 1948 in LUBYA: The Palestinian Ruin and its Absence
  • Conclusion

Since there is no English version planned out, and that I used the arguments and some of the case studies in a paper presented at SOAS for the symposium “The Gaza Strip: History, Future and New Directions for Research” (October 2015) I propose to publish this shorter text here for non-francophone readers. In addition of the research specifically made for the redaction of the book, it draws on a few articles and maps written and drawn here for the last two years.

The book can be found in French bookstores that have an architectural theory section, as well as on B2’s website.

The Palestinian Ruin as an Israeli Architectural Project ///

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Customr_Zaandam2

Carceral dome for the Zaandam migrant detention center by Customr Willem van der Sluis / Photo by Luuk Kramer

As the latest issue of The Funambulist Magazine is dedicated to Carceral Environments, Daniela Ortiz brought to my attention the (past) existence of these carceral domes designed in 2007 by Dutch designer Customr Willem van der Sluis for a migrant detention center in Zaandam, a town situated a few kilometers north of Amsterdam. This is far from being the first collaboration between designers/architects and the industrial carceral complex in all its forms, and we should never refuse a debate of ideas with non-abolitionist designers providing that the extreme violence of incarceration is acknowledged as an axiom of the conversation. Furthermore, if we trust the successive dated imagery available on Google Earth, we can see that the domes were dismantled in 2013, and as such, they might not be so relevant to address here. However, the way the designer describes his project in two videos (see below), helped by a complaisant media coverage, provides a discourse banalizing the violence of architecture (which is far from exclusive to this particular project) and, as such, it seems important to analyse here.

The Zaandam migrant detention center is one of the three of the kinds in the Netherlands. It is situated on an industrial dock and the cells themselves are located in carceral barges anchored to it. In June 2008, Amnesty International published a report (the cover page is a photo of the Zaandam prison) about the criminalization and incarceration of persons in irregular visa situation in the country. The first paragraph of the report states the following: “Each year some 20,000 irregular migrants and asylum-seekers are detained in the Netherlands, where the use and duration of detention and other restrictive administrative measures is increasing. This report examines how far these measures have led to a deterioration in the human rights situation of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers. It also underlines Amnesty International’s growing concern over the control and security oriented approach by governments worldwide, in an effort to “combat” irregular migration, at the cost of migrants’ human rights” (Amnesty International, “The Netherlands: The Detention of Irregular Migrants and Asylum-Seekers,” 2008.). It is crucial to associate these concerns with the design of the domes examined here, since they fully contribute to the exercise of violence denounced by the report — the counter argument presented by the designer that the domes act as “an inverted panopticon” combines the odd architect obsession for Bentham’s carceral scheme and the eloquence of illusive ideas. Although the domes have been dismantled (perhaps moved to another location), they fully take their place in the inventory of the various inventive efforts provided by designers and architects in the enforcement of the walls of Fortress Schengen (see past articles about Calais and the Slovenian/Croatian border for instance) whether these walls are built on the borders themselves, or internally in the forms of heavily monitored refugee camps and detention centers.

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