The sixth volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers and edits past articles (as well as additional photographs) of the blog about Palestine, is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published will be dedicated to Cruel Designs. Click here to see the other volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets.
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Raja Shehadeh, Nora Akawi, Eyal Weizman, Regine Debatty, Ahmad Barcklay, Dena Qaddumi, Dror Etkes, Franchaska Katz & Amir Terkel.
Official page of The Funambulist Pamphlets Volume 06: PALESTINE on Punctum Books’ website.
Index of the Book
Introduction: Cartography of a Colonial Politics of Space
01/ The Palestinian Archipelago: A Metaphorical Cartography of the Occupied Territories
02/ For a More Embodied Vision of the Occupation: The Israeli Settlements in the West Bank Through Palestinian eyes
03/ Architectural Stockholm Syndrome
04/ The Route 443, a Symptomatic Example of the Apartheid Apparatus in the West Bank
05/ Road Link between Gaza and the West Bank: A Sovereignty Contained in a Line
06/ The Ordinary Violence of the Colonial Apparatuses in the West Bank
07/ The Right to the Ruin: Civilization Absence in the Post-Nakba Landscapes
08/ Sympathy with the Obstacle in the Gaza Strip
09/ War in the Manhattan Strip
10/ Political Geography of the Gaza Strip: A Territory of Experiments for the State of Israel
11/ Representation of Otherness for a Gaza Kid
12/ The Policies of the “Lesser Evil”
13/ Palestine: What the International Legislation Says
14/ Law as a Colonial Weapon
15/ The Reasons for Disobeying a Law
16/ The Palestinian Legal Right of Return
17/ Manual of Return
18/ 2037 by Raja Shehadeh
19/ Running as Political Resistance
20/ Idealism & Imagination
21/ Are we Questioning the Essence of Problems?
22/ An Epistolary Conversation with R. Debatty
23/ An Epistolary Conversation with A. Barclay and D. Qaddumi
Electric Chair by Andy Warhol (1964)
There is still an existing political debate about whether of not a given society should adopt (perpetuate) death penalty as its ultimate judicial sentence. It is surprising to often hear people say that they are against death penalty “except for… (place here the most horrifying crime),” not realizing that this “except for” validates by definition their acceptation for this sentence. Beyond the strictly emotional (or even religious) aspects of the arguments given by its opponents, I would like to ask whether we actually fathom what death penalty really means in a given society.
In the context of premodern society that Michel Foucault describes as following a paradigm of sovereignty based on the right of the sovereign to dispose of its subjects’ life (to go to war for example) in exchange of protection against the various antagonisms coming ‘from the outside,’ the act to give death to one of these subjects can be integrated within the logic of such social tacit contract. On the other hand, the modern era is characterized by a biopolitical (quoting Foucault again) administration of society, i.e. an organization of life in its very mechanisms (health, sexuality, reproduction etc.) to optimize the function of society. In order to describe how death penalty integrates within this scheme, I need to briefly explain the idea of thanatopolitics (politics administrating death) that I introduced in a previous article. This notion emerges from the observation that death is “at work” and that there are therefore only two possible ways of dealing with it: acceleration or deceleration of the death process. Biopolitics therefore involves by definition its counterpart (one might say that there are the same), thanatopolitics. The administration of toxicity in the context of food production (an important part of biopolitics) or society’s infrastructure (pollution) or its risk factor (nuclear accidents), is what I include in this thanatopolitics that a given society has to organize to either administrate the acceleration or the deceleration of the death process.
Olive Harvest / Where Law Stands on the Wall – Visualizing Palestine 2013
The collective Visualizing Palestine is finishing a crowdfunding campaign for their operative budget (only five days left!). This gives us a good opportunity to look again at the work produced by this talented team a year and half after I published one of their first visuals on this blog.
The principle of Visualizing Palestine is to create posters expressing in an expressive manner, the conditions in which the occupation of the Palestinian territories unfolds itself on a daily basis. In order to do so, they articulate a metaphoric or diagrammatic visualizing one of the many dimensions of the occupation, with an inventory of sourced facts that informs this data. The two examples above are illustrative for that matter. The powerful imagery of Central Park being “uprooted” allows the information of the massive uprooting of Palestinian trees since the beginning of the occupation in 1967 to be understood both at a rational and at an emotional level. Similarly, the second poster provides a clear information about the various decisions of justice given by the International Court of Justice regarding the separation barrier built by the state of Israel since 2002. This information is crucial when we see that Benjamin Netanyahu now projects to build a new wall in the West Bank (once again on Palestinian ground) along the border with Jordan.
Following is four more visuals (more on VP’s website) created in this last year: Continue reading
Still from the film Naked Lunch by David Cronenberg (1991)
I am now at the end of my European trip for Archipelago and a few talks and will soon go back to my desk to write articles more regularly. I am now at the University of Sussex near Brighton where I recorded a podcast this morning with friend Lucy Finchett-Maddock (it will be released in January) that articulated a few of the idea that we had explored together in the past in the context of our epistolary exchange about architecture and the law, her contribution to the Funambulist Papers, as well as her contribution to the Disobedience workshop at Birbeck school of law (London) in 2011 that I published here in the past. The latter was about the notion of naughtiness in the literary work of William Burroughs and that is the object of this not-so-synthetic synthesis of our conversation here.
In the epistolary conversation to which I was referring above, Lucy and I had spoken about the collusion in Indian cities of eminent domain that reclaims an important amount of land to accommodate the conditions of life of the new Indian bourgeoisie, and what we then called “immanent” domain in the presence of the numerous informal settlements that claim land for the bare urban survival of the lowest social classes of the country. While the eminent domain constitutes a strategical modification of the legal system in a spirit that we could define as reminiscence of the colonial spirit, the immanent domain unfolds itself through the practice of the city and within an ambiguous interpretation of property within the legal framework. This immanent domain is what brought us back to Burroughs, and through him, the description of the Interzone that he does in Naked Lunch (1959) and Interzone (1989). The Interzone, as we discussed with Lucy, is both an international zone and a zone in which the law has been suspended. It was inspired to Burroughs by his life as a fugitive in Tangiers, as well as his consumption of heroin that has been one of the objects of his literary work. Burroughs’s descriptions of the Interzone reach a visual richness that even David Cronenberg was not fully able to introduce in his cinematographic adaptation of Naked Lunch in 1991 (longer excerpt at the end of this article):
Funambulism, Utopias, Backyards, Open Stacks, Architectures of In/security, Sonic Landscapes, Apian Semantics, Meta-Virtual Solipsism, Transcendent Delusions, Fibrous Assemblages, Circuses, Old Media, Pet Architecture, Persian Folds, DIY Biopolitics, and MORE (Eileen Joy describing The Funambulist Papers)
The Funambulist Papers Volume 1 that gathers thirty four essays of the first series of guest writer essays (plus an essay by Bryan Finoki) is now published, like for the Funambulist Pamphlets, by Punctum Books in association with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School for Design. I would like to insist on the variety of approaches and background of these authors whether we speak about their disciplines (architecture, law, cinema theory, art, history etc.) or their origins (23 nationalities) in order for this series to bring a fresh discourse in the middle of my articles that can be sometimes (often ?!) redundant. As for the Pamphlets, Punctum Books and I are keen to think of our work as part of an open access strategy and the book can be therefore downloaded for free as pdf. It is also available in its printed version on Punctum Book’s website for $15 (€13.00/£11.00). The book is also part of the “perks” of the crowdfunding campaign for Archipelago!
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Peter Hudson, Petal Samuel, Liduam Pong, Mina Rafiee, and to Seher Shah for accepting that I use her painting “City Unknown” for the cover. Thank you very much to all the contributors as well for accepting to write pieces specifically for The Funambulist. This series will continue in the future and there should be a second volume at some point.
The book is organized in two parts, “The Power of the Line,” and “Architectural Narratives” as follows:
Posted in Architectural Theories, Books, Cinema, Essays, Fine Arts, History, Law, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, The Funambulist Papers
Still from The Law in these Parts by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz (2012)
I recently watched Israeli director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz‘s fim, The Law in these Parts (merci Philippe) that unfolds the legal mechanisms of the occupation of the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since their take over by the Israeli Defense Forces in 1967. Alexandrowicz alternates archival footage and interviews with six members of the Israeli military legal corps who had a significant action on the legal colonial framework. I have written a lot about how architecture was used as a colonial weapon in the Palestinian territories; it is important to observe also how this architecture is the embodiment of a series of legal strategies that were implemented in order to organize Palestinian daily life according to military occupation logic, to allow the civilian colonization of these territories, as well as to registers each actions in regard to the international legislation to determine a position that never reaches a ‘breaking point.’
This colonial law is a well-thought strategy, not a set of quickly decided tactics. In this regard, the first thing that the film tells us, is that the brochures informing the Palestinians that they were now under the Israeli military legislation — a necessary measure in the international law — were designed and printed by dozens of thousands long before 1967 and the actual occupation of the Palestinian territories by the I.D.F.. The content of this colonial legislation was then regularly updated as issues were raised, involving groups of military law-makers to continue constructing the legal means by which the Palestinian population’s life would be organized by the Israeli army. Alexandrowicz asks the question about whether it would have not been more simple to enforce the Israeli legislation on the Palestinians. He is answered that such logic had to be avoided absolutely as it would have been considering the occupied population as citizens of Israel de facto. The films also points out the ambiguous legal obligation on the Israeli civil population — there are currently 500,000 Israeli civil settlers in the West Bank — who live in the occupied territories. Unsurprisingly this population’s criminal activity is not judged by military courts as for the occupied population, but rather by the civil Israeli courts that has been consistently lenient with their action.
Former American Embassy of Karachi by Richard Neutra & Robert Alexander
It happens rather often that architecture offices have to hold on their documents and drawings for a while as the client (often public in this case) does not want them to be spread around at this specific moment. It is rarer that architectural drawings should acquire a status of classified documents by a given government or army. That is what happens nevertheless when the concerned building’s layout and organization has to remain secret to prevent antagonist agents to be familiar with the building.
In May 2007, the Kansas-based architectural firm Berger Devine Yaeger Inc. leaked some documents introducing the design of their new project: the American Embassy compound in Baghdad, veritable fortified city in the center of the Iraqi capital. After having been contacted by the U.S. State Department, the firm managed later to withdraw these documents from the internet. The architectural drawings had become hyper-protected and secretive documents like military coordinates or intelligence agencies’ spied information. These drawings are only representative documents, but the information that they contain allow a holistic understanding of a building: its layout, its functioning scheme both a the human, goods and mechanical level, but also its structure, and thus is weaknesses. Knowing the material and the dimension of a given structure could indeed serve the purpose of an attack against this building in order to make it collapse. Such technique of intelligence gathering architectural information in order to profoundly understand a building is being used in the “design” of attacks by the U.S. and Israeli armies when they want to target one or several specific bodies in a building. These attacks, by its design, in the same way we speak of the design of a building, have for goal to minimize the amount of collateral deaths, since the strategists of these army are being allowed a limited of these civilian deaths as Eyal Weizman reveals in his lecture “Forensic Architecture” (see past article), and his essay “Thanato-tactics” (see past article). At war like at peace, “knowledge is power;” architectural drawings embody this knowledge and therefore this power.
Juggling on the Berlin Wall / Photograph by Yann Forget
It has now been three months that I have the chance to write a monthly carte blanche column in Swiss architectural journal Tracés entitled Le Funambule. This third article is a re-articulation of various ideas that I have been writing in the past on this blog. I apologize for the clear redundancy.
What Do We Find in the Thickness of a Line? ///
(originally published in French in Tracés)
The line constitutes the principal medium of the architect. Of course, the lines that (s)he traces represent more than a simple drawing; they are thought as descriptive of an architecture that other humans will have to build. Nevertheless, it might not be exaggerated to state that the only veritably material act of the architect consists in tracing lines. The latter are mathematical entities that, by definition, have no thickness. When the architectural elements that they describe are translated in reality however, they acquire a thickness even it if it very small. This thickness is precisely the means for architecture to unfold its power on the bodies. A simple line traced on a map to delimit the American territory from the Mexican one, and, in reality, a thirty-feet tall wall to prevent the access to a country for bodies that seem to be considered to brown for it. The few millimeters of steel that embody this line insure of its physical and, by extension, political impermeability.
The line, in its geometrical perfection, is inscribed in a legal diagram that also benefits from a theoretical perfection. Its materialization as an architecture is an apparatus of implementation of this legal diagram in reality. A very simple of this statement can be found in the fact that a large majority of the world’s wall are the violent expression of a law that guarantees private property. Of course, this translation in to reality of the legal diagram cannot be perfectly executed: the material apparatus is fallible, and that is how hundreds of clandestine Mexican immigrants still manage to penetrate on the United States’ territory for example.
Still of the video What the Drone Saw by artist Omer Fast, a former U.S. Army drone operator / Source: The Guardian
This article is the first one but very unlikely to be the last one about Grégoire Chamayou‘s Drone Theory. The latter is the name of a book (Théorie du drone) that has not been translated in English yet, and that is published by the same French publisher I am regularly referring to on this blog, La Fabrique. As a complement to his activity of philosopher, Chamayou is also the editor of this excellent series of books ZONES (published by La Découverte) that are available in open access online in addition of existing in printed version. Before publishing Théorie du drone (La Fabrique, 2013), Chamayou had written Les corps vils : Expérimenter sur les êtres humains aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles (Vile Bodies: Experiments on Human Beings in 18th and 19th Centuries) (La Découverte, 2008) and Les chasses à l’homme (La Fabrique, 2010) published by Princeton University Press in 2012 under the name Manhunts: A Philosophical History.
This last book can be said to prepare Chamayou’s philosophical terrain to examine the specific problem of the military drone. Through it, he detects the same logic of the hunter and the prey, the absence of lethal risk for the first one and the reduction of the second one as a vulnerable running body. Like in hunting, strategies of encrypting and decrypting trajectories have to be developed respectively by the prey and the hunter to achieve their purpose: survival for one, absolute domination for the other. One thing that is particular to the current U.S. Army/C.I.A. strategy in their so-called “surgical operations” around the globe is that drones operate in countries that are not at war with the United States: Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia in addition of Afghanistan and Iraq. These extra-legal raids are therefore ignoring the very idea of national borders (and nationalities) to prefer to it, a more global interpretation of the battlefield extended to the whole world. Yet, it is inexact to state that the whole world is a battlefield as it would include the body of the drone operator, who is absolutely protected from the risk of death where (s)he is. In this regard, Chamayou describes one of the historical origin of the drone as a reaction to its exact opposite: the kamikaze plane of the Japanese Army during the Second World War. Borders are therefore ignored but the battlefield is embodied by the body of the prey around which is constituted “an autonomous zone of temporary killing.” This body, wherever it will go, will therefore bring with it the virtualization of a battlefield that will quasi-inevitably actualize itself when the hunter will have decrypted its trajectory.
The fourth volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers and edits past articles of the blog about Legal Theory, is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published will be dedicated to Occupy Wall Street. Click here to see the other volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets.
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Costas Douzinas, Gilbert Leung, David Garcia, Santiago Cirugeda & Chaska Katz.
Official page of The Funambulist Pamphlets Volume 04: LEGAL THEORY on Punctum Books’ website.
Index of the Book
Introduction: The Law Turned Into Walls
01/ Architecture and the Law: An Epistolary Exchange With Dr. Lucy Finchett-Maddock
02/ Remus Has to Die
03/ Trapped in the Border’s Thickness
04/ Absurdity and Greatness of the Law: The Siege of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
05/ The Space Beyond the Walls: Defensive “A-legal” Sanctuaries
06/ The Reasons for Disobeying a Law
07/ Political Geography of the Gaza Strip: A Territory of Experiments for the State of Israel
08/ Palestine: What Does the International Legislation Say
09/ In Praise of the Essence of the American Second Amendment: The Importance of Self-Contradiction in a System
10/ Power, Violence, Law by Costas Douzinas
11/ Fortress London: Missiles on Your Roof
12/ Short Digression About the Future of Drones (After Seeing One at JFK)
13/ Quadrillage: Urban Plague Quarantine & Retro-Medieval Boston
14/ Historical Map of Quarantine
15/ Collision, Sexuality and Resistance
16/ The Spatial Issues at Stake in Occupy Wall Street: Considering the Privately Owned Public Spaces
17/ Strategies for Subversive Urban Occupation by Recetas Urbanas
18/ Is Housing a Human Right? Considering the “Take Back the Land” Manifesto
19/ Center for Urban Pedagogy
I am in complete disagreement with American libertarian politicians like Ron Paul and his son, Senator of Kentucky Rand Paul as far as interior policies are concerned. However, one needs to acknowledge the consistency of their political system, a sort of anarchist free-market in which supposedly social justice comes from the self-regulation of the system. This kind of thinking leads, of course, to the conservation of the current American healthcare system that nevertheless constitutes the most blatant example of capitalism’s indifference for any form of social justice. To be just, the libertarian pure capitalist system should make all human ‘start from scratch’ with egalitarian conditions of life, a sort of capitalist kibbutz in which children would be separated from their parents at their birth to be given the fair chance to take their place in the meritocracy. It goes without saying that such structure would not be to the Libertarians’ taste and therefore their system fails in consistency only when they want it to appear as just. The current American healthcare system that treats extremely differently the wealthy and the poor and that provides life-long debts, is what we could call a crime against society as a new legal definition.
It would be too simple however to state that countries like Canada, Japan or the European Union have found a perfect healthcare system. In this regard, it is interesting to look at the 1983 conversation entitled “The Risks of Security” (“Un système fini face à une demande infinie” in its original French version) in which Michel Foucault answers the questions of Robert Bono, general secretary of the union CFDT (Democratic French Confederations of the Workers) that was part of the Administration Council of the French social security back then. It is incidentally interesting to see that in the early 1980′s in France during the beginning of the first left president François Mitterand, a conversation about an important topic like healthcare between one of the main representatives of the country’s unions and a philosopher like Foucault could occur. It is also to Foucault’s credit in this conversation not to remain in the abstraction of a disincarnated philosophy but, on the contrary, to speak of problems concretely and even proposing a few ideas to the risk of loosing credibility.
Winning entry of the New State Danish Prison by C. F. Møller Architects (2010)
Thanks to my friends Mariabruna and Fosco (Microcities/Socks), I got to learn that the French department of justice, through its research mission — coincidentally entitled G.I.P. like Michel Foucault’s Groupe Information Prison — is currently calling for research proposal to rethink the relationships between architecture and the prison. The opportunity to work on this topic thus reactivated for me what appears to me as the most explicit dilemma for an architect: should I, as an architect, accept to be commissioned — or even to research — to design a prison that I will intend to trigger an improvement in the conditions of incarceration of prisoners, or should I simply refuse to conceive an architecture that is voluntarily cruel to the bodies that it hosts? I am writing that this is the “most explicit” dilemma, as this question can be asked in many other situations when exercising this profession. Not every architects will be asked to participate to the design of a prison in their carrier, but all of them will face this dilemma declined in a more or less subtle version of it. This is actually a more generalized dilemma than one only addressed to architects; every political strategy is based on this same question: can a set of reforms essentially change a society for better, or are reforms only a matter of cosmetics that participates to the dissimulation of the real essence of the relationships of power. Reform or revolution?
I would like my readers to believe me when I say that I veritably do not know the answer that I would like to give this question. On the one hand, refusing compromise can be a comfortable way to think as it allows no flexibility, and therefore no effort to adapt principles to a concrete situation; on the other hand, the reason that we elaborate principles when liberated from the specificity of a situation is a good way for them not to be corrupted by processes of self-persuasion that are often motivated on self-centered considerations. What is for sure, is that it is important to seriously consider this dilemma each time we find ourselves confronted to one of its declinations. In the case of an architecture commission — a prison, for example — each categorical refusal must be done after having reconsidered this question, and each acceptance must be done in the full understanding of what is the actual decision power of the architect, and in which political context (s)he is embedded to, when conceiving this project.
Promotional image for the film World War Z (2013)
Here are two disclaimers before starting this article about the figure of the zombie, particularly in the recent film World War Z by Marc Forster (2013). The first one is that the text that follows — as well as the very will to go see World War Z in a theater — is strongly inspired by the excellent article “World Revolution Z” (December 5th 2005) by Gastón Gordillo on Space and Politics. The second disclaimer is that, although there won’t be any major spoiler in this text — watching the trailer is a spoiler itself — I will need to refer the end of the film at some point, and despite its expected nature, people who are wanting to see this film without having heard too much about it should probably stop their reading here.
Movies that dramatize an pandemic of zombies are well-known for involving a high level of symbolical elements as the fictional figure of the zombie refers to a human body reduced to its animal (cannibalistic) function. It is understood that if we want to see these narratives for the way they influence our imaginary, we have to consider that the figure of the zombie exists only through the subjectivity of a non-zombie human, and that these hordes of bodies, which are something that this non-zombie is not, chasing him or her are the reflection of a strong paranoia towards a specific group of people. In the text mentioned above, Gastón Gordillo emits the legitimate hypothesis that in the case of World War Z, the zombies represent the insurrectional proletariat engaged in a worldwide revolution. Such an interpretation becomes extremely tangible when we see the strongest image of the film: a mass of bodies climbing on each other to get over a tall concrete wall in Jerusalem. The team crew was careful to explicitly describe that the wall had been built specifically against the zombie attack — in other words, this is not the separation barrier built in the West Bank by the Israeli — and to include a scene in which Arabs and Jewish seem to be in communion to face the universal danger upon them — in other words, these zombies are not the Palestinians who are trying to liberate themselves from this wall that separate them from their family, their fields, their roots. I will not mention the sum of details that do bring us back to a pro-zionist perspective — the very fact that the whole city of Jerusalem is said to be in Israel is the most obvious one — in order to focus on the fact that the symbolic of this image cannot liberate itself from the way we see it, with our experience and cultural references: this wall is the separation barrier and these bodies are the Palestinians fighting against their restriction of movement.
Despite what the title indicates, I have not been convinced by the National Riffles Association’s arguments against any forms of legislation to control the commerce of guns in the United States. These arguments are only to develop a simulacrum of debate of ideas, while a heavy — and apparently successful — lobbying is being made to influence the legislative power. In the American second amendment, what I am interested in lies in what I suppose as its implicit essence: the right for a people to have the legal means to overthrow its government if the latter betrays its legitimacy. Of course, in 1789 when the Bill of Rights was voted as a supplement of the 1787 U.S. Constitution, firearms seemed indeed the appropriate means to preserve such a right. Nowadays, however, the fire power of a national army — the American one in particular — is so important that revolutions cannot be longer thought a model in which a citizen armed militia has the fire power to fight a regular army. Weapons are therefore less important than the constitutional legitimacy of revolt against tyranny. If such a legitimacy was indeed the essence of the second amendment, it should be rewritten to correspond to its historical context.
The American second amendment is regrettably not so explicit as far as this right is concerned. A historical document from the same era, on the contrary, could not be more explicit: this is the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1793 that served as the Constitution of the First Republic. The last article of this text stipulates the following:
Article 35: When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for each portion of the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties.
The Abbey of Thélème
Today’s guest writer, Nick Axel has been already published twice on The Funambulist: once in April 2011, for his Supurban Project when he was still a student, and the second time for his Ideological and Hermeneutical Map of Architecture in September 2011. Nick is the writer and editor of Awaking Lucid as well as an unlicensed architect, which make our respective approaches to architecture somehow similar. His text What is the problem? is an investigation of the collusion of notions of violence, ethics and power as well as the ones of the rule and the law. Nick uses this notion to constructively engage the argument that I often try to carry here, which is that for each wall, there is a law. For him, for each wall, there is a rule but not necessary a law. I suppose that this debate would also gain in introducing the notion of norm, which resonates with those of rule and law, yet brings something specific to the question of architecture in its relationships to ethics and violence.
I want to thank him for his patience to make his paper work for The Funambulist’s editorial line.
What is the problem?
by Nick Axel
The second volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers past articles of the blog, is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published will be dedicated to Deleuze.
Official page of The Funambulist Pamphlets Volume 02: FOUCAULT on Punctum Books’ website.
Index of the Book
Introduction: The Cartography of Power
01/ Foucault and Architecture: The Encounter that Never Was
02/ The Architectural Underestimation
03/ “Do not become Enamored with Power”
04/ “Mon Corps, Topie Impitoyable”
05/ The Cartography of Power
06/ The Political Technology of the Body
07/ Architecture and Discipline: The Hospital
08/ Questioning Heterotopology
09/ Foucault and the Society of Control
10/ Quadrillage: Urban Plague Quarantine & Retro-Medieval Boston
11/ The Inscription of Gender in Our Bodies: Norm Production in Foucault and Butler
12/ Modes of Subversion Against the Pharmacopornographic Society: Testo Junkie by Beatriz Preciado
13/ “My Desire is Someone Else’s Fiction”
14/ The Architectural Paradigm of the Society of Control: The Immanent Panopticon
15/ The Counter-Biopolitical Bioscleave Experiment: Bioscleave, Shaping our Biological Niches by Stanley Shostak
16/ Diagrams of Utopia by Anthony Vidler
17/ Quarantine and Remoteness: Paranoia and Mechanisms of Precautionary Incarceration
18/ Prison Information Group: Michel Foucault, Jean-Marie Domenach & Pierre Vidal-Naquet
The space beyond the walls: Defensive “a-legal” sanctuaries
(originally written for the Wheelwright Prize – failed)
Considered purely in the abstract, the law appears to be a tool which makes strict categorizations of human actions and behaviors as either legal or illegal, just or unjust. Concomitantly, the abstraction of the law corresponds with a similar spatial abstraction in which territories are defined diagrammatically. This is true as far as the sovereignty of states is concerned but also for all architectural plans; they diagrammatically organize space into distinct territories of jurisdiction. In each case, law and diagram are reduced to their abstract lines. Once manifested as physical architecture, however, such strict delineation becomes far more ambiguous. Which law is applied in the space of a wall, the space of a border or the space of a contested zone? These spaces are legal anomalies and may be understood as the architectural manifestation of what Legal Philosophy Professor Hans Lindahl calls a-legality. Such in-between spaces seem at once to underwrite the law as well as to contradict it. In this research project, I propose to investigate specific cases in which the architecture of such “a-legal zones” is strategically used as a space of sanctuary from coercive forces. My argument insists that an “a-legal architecture” is specifically a defensive one as it gives itself the means to preserve such a status.
The immanent domain (see third letter) – Dharavi in Mumbai / Photograph by Léopold Lambert (2009)
FIRST LETTER (New York on July 12th 2012) ///
I read your essay Archiving Burroughs: Interzone, Law, Self-Medication with attention and appreciated, as usual, the way you manage to link narrative, law and space all together. I do think however that we should keep this text for a little bit later in our conversation as its specificity might make us miss the bases of the discussion that we would like to have about law and architecture. In this regard, I would like to ingenuously start by stating some obvious facts which are always good to remember for such a discussion.
Law, understood as a human artifact, constitutes an ensemble of regulations which have been explicitly stated in order to categorize behaviors in two categories: legal and illegal. In order to do so, it expects from every individual subjected to its application a full knowledge of its content in order to moralize and held accountable attitudes that are either respectful or transgressive towards it.
Law is undeniably related to space as it requires a given territory with precise borders to be able to implement itself. Nothing easier to understand this fact than to observe in which space one is allowed to smoke and in which one is not. It also includes within this territory smaller zones of exclusion, from the corner of the class room to the penitentiary, in which another form of the law -supposedly a more restrictive one- is applied for individuals who, through an active refusal of specific parts of it, are to be separated from the rest of society. Those individuals, when captured by law enforcer instances, are brought within those zones of exclusion and are being held in them for a given period of time provisioned by law itself.
The recent manhunt of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston was probably quite shocking to many non-Americans – and probably some Americans too -, for the anachronism it constituted. The latter was caused by the ability for a Police to empty an entire city and therefore implements a sort of state of emergency, as well as the “march of the heroes”, the multitude of police officers acclaimed by the crowd after they arrested their prey. There is a profound feudalism in such absoluteness and one has the right to wonder what motivates this disturbing joy.
Let us focus on the urban condition that contextualize this manhunt. I have been repeatedly writing in the past, each house through its impermeability due to the implementation of private property is susceptible to become a prison for the bodies living inside of it in the sudden legal implementation of a quarantine. For an important part of Boston, the quarantine was not implemented stricto sensu but it was highly recommend to each resident to stay inside and the context of fear created by the ubiquitous media made such a recommendation a quasi-order. In the areas of Boston where the police and army was actually deployed, the quarantine was very much effectuated as this article illustrates: Looking through the windows seems to have been prohibited and enforced through the threats of weapons.
While this event was unfolding I was thinking of the descriptions that Michel Foucault makes in his seminar Abnormal (Les Anormaux) at the College de France (1975) of a Medieval/Renaissance city when contaminated by the Plague. Foucault distinguishes two things historically: the negative reaction to cases of leprosy in the same city that consists in the effective exclusion of the sick bodies from it, to the point that they are declared socially dead; and the positive (in the sense that there is an inclusion) reaction to the Plague that provokes a state of emergency and the absolute reorganization of the city according to a quadrillage which has been not so well translated into partitioning. Quadrillage involves indeed a sort of physical or virtual partitioning of a space, but it also implies a detailed, systematic and extensive examination of this same space by a controlling entity. Such an action is thoroughly described by Foucault in his class of January 15th 1975 in this same seminar:
Mas Context just released the new episode of their series In Context, that asks one of their reader (myself in that case) to pick five articles of the previous issues and join them in a short editorial work focused on a question about architecture. Thank you to Iker Gil for inviting me to this series.
Architecture and the Law
The relationship between architecture and the law is a similar one than the egg and the chicken: it would be difficult and probably useless to determine which one created the other. What is interesting to question however, is whether one can exists without the other. The law requires architecture to crystalize the territory on which it applies on (the example of private property is the most obvious one), and architecture, in its inherent power to control the bodies, cannot help but to create new laws for each diagrammatic line it materializes into walls.