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overfocus on state & process details is a link – makes debate a game of administrative tinkering that reentrenches the prison-industrial complex

Murakawa 14, Associate Professor

[2014, Naomi Murakawa is an Associate Professor Center for African American Studies, “First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America.” ProQuest ebrary]

The history of liberal law-and-order matters because the same proposals for better administration, proffered with the same good intentions, are likely to reproduce the same monstrous outcomes in the twenty-first century. The problems of a normatively untethered liberal law-and-order regime are clear in the arc of liberal positions on judicial discretion. Mid-century liberals viewed discretion as dangerous individualized justice, tailored to each defendant from each judge’s moral cloth in all its idiosyncratic textures. Judicial discretion lurked in law’s “twilight zone,” dispensing what Judge Marvin Frankel called “law without order.” Liberal fear of discretion endured through the mid-1980s, when one could easily characterize the “mainstream liberal thought” as unambiguously opposed to discretionary administrative interpretation and implementation. 15 With the rise of sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums through the 1980s and 1990s, however, liberals called for more judicial discretion by praising that which they previously reprimanded— justice customized to each individual defendant. 16 As a project to control the irrationalities of racial bias and administrative discretion, liberal law-and-order ignored empirical lessons and displaced normative questions. Reformers invoked the promises and perils of “discretion” while ignoring the central findings of research. The American Bar Foundation’s 1957 survey and the myriad studies it inspired analyzed discretion within the “total criminal justice system.” As a system, carceral machinery is not easily corrected by small administrative adjustments: tighten discretion in one place, and the criminal justice system “accommodates,” to use the original language of the ABF studies, so that discretion simply becomes more important for a different decision maker. Accommodation is evident of sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums, which diminished judicial discretion but effectively increased prosecutorial discretion. When situated with a total system approach, the “amount” of discretion has neither increased nor decreased, concludes Samuel Walker; it has simply moved from one agency to another. 17 Administrative tinkering does not confront the damning features of the American carceral state, its scale and its racial concentration, which, when taken together reinforce and raise African American vulnerability to premature death. By focusing on the intra-system problems of “discretion,” lawmakers displaced questions of justice onto the more manageable, measurable issues of system function. When framed as a problem of discretion— that is, individual decision making permissible by formal rules— then solutions to racial inequality double back to individual administrators and their institutional rules. In this sense, problematizing discretion forces questions of remediation onto sanitary administrative grounds. Should judges be elected or appointed? Should judges administer justice through sentencing guidelines? No guidelines and some mandatory minimums? No mandatory minimums and only mandatory maximums? Will judges or parole boards select the final release date? These questions matter, but they cannot replace clear commitments to racial justice. When they are posed independently of normative goals, process becomes the proxy, not the path, to justice. Without a normatively grounded understanding of racial violence, liberal reforms will do the administrative shuffle. This book traced a stark half-century turn from confronting white racial violence administered and enabled by carceral apparatuses, to controlling black criminality through a procedurally fortified, race-neutral system. Race liberals institutionalized the “right to safety” while skirting its animating call against state-sanctioned white violence. Fixation on administrative minutiae distracted from the normative core of punishment in a system of persistent racial hierarchy. Unlike administrative tinkering, reforms for decriminalization and decarceration would push debates to their normative core: what warrants punishment, in what form, and why? 18 In place of liberal searches for the ideal procedural path to life incarceration, metrics of racial justice should focus on what Ruth Wilson Gilmore calls “the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” 19 Seeing racism as “group-differentiated vulnerabilities to premature death” gives proper context to acts of violence between individuals. If we situate private violence in relation to group-differentiated reality, we begin to see the tight weave of state and private racial violence. An example often mobilized to repressive ends is the fact that most crimes occur within rather than between racial groups, such that African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans confront high incarceration rates and high victimization rates. This is the complex story of the U.S. racial state, where normal institutional and ideological processes perpetuate the multigenerational transmission of accumulated advantage and accumulated disadvantage. 20 Accumulated advantage imparts a presumption of innocence; inherited wealth enables home ownership in class-segregated areas (i.e., “a safe neighborhood”) and medical insurance for diagnosis of conditions and coverage of various prescriptions such as Ritalin (i.e., more effective forms of meth). In contrast, accumulated disadvantage imparts a presumption of guilt.


Links of omission are cool now, so sayeth Medina

Medina 11 – prof @ Vanderbilt

(Jose, Toward a Foucaultian Epistemology of Resistance: Counter-Memory, Epistemic Friction, and Guerrilla Pluralism, Foucault Studies, No. 12, pp. 9-35, October 2011)

In the second place, by undoing established historical continuities, a counter- history reflects and produces discontinuous moments in a people’s past, gaps that are passed over in silence, interstices in the socio-historical fabric of a community that have received no attention. This is what we can call, by symmetry with the previous point, the principle of discontinuity. Foucault describes it in the following way: This counter-history “also breaks the continuity of glory.” It reveals that the light—the famous dazzling effect of power—is not something that petrifies, solidifies, and immobilizes the entire social body, and thus keeps it in order; it is in fact a divisive light that illuminates one side of the social body but leaves the other side in shadow or casts it into darkness. A counter-history is the dark history of those peoples who have been kept in the shadows, a history that speaks ‚from within the shadows,‛ ‚the discourse of those who have no glory, or of those who have lost it and who now find themselves, perhaps for a time—but probably for a long time—in darkness and silence.‛14 A counter-his- tory is not the history of victories, but the history of defeats. As Foucault remarks, it is linked to those ‚epic, religious, or mythical forms which “formulate the misfortune of ancestors, exiles, and servitude;‛ it ‚is much closer to the mythico-religious discourse of the Jews than to the politico-legendary history of the Romans.‛15 While an official history keeps entire groups of peoples and their lives and experiences ‚in darkness and silence,‛ a counter-history teaches us precisely how to listen to those silent and dark moments. But how do we learn to listen to silence? In an earlier essay, ‚What is an Author?,‛16 Foucault offers helpful remarks about how to fight against the ‘omissions‛ and active oblivion produced by discursive practices, that is, how to listen to lost voices that have been silenced or coopted in such a way that certain meanings were lost or never heard. Foucault is particularly interested in those forms of silencing produced by a discursive practice which, far from being accidental, are in fact foundational and constitutive. Those are constitutive silences, for the discursive practice proceeds in the way it does and acquires its distinctive normative structure by virtue of the exclusions that it produces, by virtue of those silenced voices and occluded meanings that let the official voices and meanings dominate the discursive space. Omissions and silences are foundational, a constitutive part of ‚the origin‛ or ‚the initiation‛ of a discursive practice. For that reason, the fight against those exclusions requires ‚a return to the origin‛: If we return, it is because of a basic and constructive omission that is not the result of accident or incomprehension.” This non-accidental omission must be regulated by precise operations that can be situated, analyzed, and reduced in a return to the act of initiation.17 Foucault distinguishes this critical ‚return to the origin‛ from mere ‚rediscoveries‛ and mere ‚reactivations‛: a rediscovery promotes ‚the perception of forgotten or obscured figures;‛18 and a reactivation involves ‚the insertion of discourse into totally new domains of generalization, practices, and transformation.‛19 By contrast, an attempt to transform a discursive practice deeply from the inside by resisting its silences and omissions requires a ‚return to the origin.‛ This critical return involves revisiting the texts that have come to be considered foundational, ‚the primary points of reference‛ of the practice, and developing a new way of reading them, so as to train our eyes and ears to new meanings and voices: we pay ‚particular attention to those things registered in the interstices of the text, its gaps and absences. We return to those empty spaces that have been masked by omission or concealed in a false and misleading plenitude.‛20 Foucault emphasizes that the modifications introduced by this critical return to the origin are not merely ‚a historical supplement that would come to fix itself upon the primary discursivity and re- double it in the form of an ornament which, after all, is not essential. Rather, it is an effective and necessary means of transforming discursive practice.‛21 If rediscoveries and reactivations of the past are crucial for extending discursive practices, a ‚return to the origin‛ that unveils omissions and silences is what is required for a deep transformation of our meaning-making capacities within those practices. The ability to identify omissions, to listen to silences, to play with discursive gaps and textual interstices is a crucial part of our critical agency for resisting power/knowledge frame- works. Lacking that ability is a strong indication of one’s inability to resist epistemic and socio-political subjugation, of the limitations on one’s agency and positionality within discursive practices. And the ability to inhabit discursive practices critically that we develop by becoming sensitive to exclusions—by listening to silences— enables us not to be trapped into discursive practices, that is, it gives us also the ability to develop counter-discourses. Indeed, being able to negotiate historical narratives and to resist imposed interpretations of one’s past means being able to develop counter-histories. Becoming sensitive to discursive exclusions and training ourselves to listen to silences is what makes possible the insurrection of subjugated knowledge: it enables us to tap into the critical potential of demeaned and obstructed forms of power/knowledge by paying attention to the lives, experiences and discursive practices of those peoples who have lived their life ‚in darkness and silence.‛


there needs to be a change to the way we debate – we should prioritize discussions of how and why we achieve policy reforms over debates about which specific reforms are best – affirmative’s pure policy focus ensures piecemeal, disconnected reforms that will be absorbed by the larger racial ideology of america – instead our advocacy symbiotically connects grassroots social justice struggles to reform strategies which prevents cooption and works to dismantle the racial caste system

The goal of debate should be to develop debaters as individuals with tools and techniques to challenge institutional and interpersonal violence—persuasion and advocacy can do more to help inform us as ethical subjects oriented towards the building of social justice movements—connecting our advocacy to how we create the change is more productive than using the skills we gain to become another mouthpiece for the state

Harnett 10

[2010, Stephen John Hartnett is Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication at The University of Colorado Denver, “Communication, Social Justice, and Joyful Commitment”, Western Journal of Communication, Volume 74, Issue 1, 2010; pages 68-93]

How curious, then, to realize that for many of our colleagues in the field, communication is still largely studied and taught not as a component of social justice but as a set of politically vacuous truisms or as tools for equipping would-be corporate warriors to make even more money. But that orientation is finally changing. For example, in his 2008 National Communication Association Presidential Address, Art Bochner delivered a rousing speech entitled “Communication's Calling: The Importance of What We Care About.” Using his presidential bully pulpit to try to nudge his assembled listeners toward a deeper commitment to engaging in social justice scholarship, Bochner asked communication scholars to “focus attention on the conscience and authenticity of our discipline” (2008, p. 15). To demonstrate that he was not unilaterally trying to wrench the field in a new direction, Bochner reminded us that when the discipline of communication was first institutionalized in 1914 as the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking, “We may not have been outlaws, but certainly we were rebels” (p. 15). Fleeing the esoteric bickering of English departments, our intellectual forebears saw themselves as venturing off into new territory that would be marked by pragmatism and prudence marshaled in the service of the public good. With the ancient Greeks as their guide, those founders hoped that teaching basic speaking skills could enhance democracy by enabling citizens both to argue more clearly and to listen more fully. Using this history as his warrant for asking the audience to think about how their careers could include reflection on questions of social justice, NCA President Bochner concluded his speech by reminding us that our students come to us seeking not only job skills and citizenship training but also deeper philosophical guidance regarding “how they should live” (p. 19). We should be clear that most of us do not have answers to that question, but just asking it amounts to a welcome turn toward understanding how our profession could address such questions as How do we live, and how might we live differently? How can our teaching, research, and service make a difference in the world? We need not settle for being technocrats, Bochner was arguing, stopping just short of begging us to engage instead in research, teaching, and service that confront oppression, strive to empower others, and do so while humbly seeking answers to life's big questions. As Bochner suggested in an exchange following his lecture, we should be asking “What is our mission?…What can and should we do to live better and more fulfilling lives as scholars, teachers, and citizens” (personal communication, June 1, 2009)? 2 NCA President Bochner could raise these questions largely because the field has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past two decades: Fueled by a new generation of scholars committed to focusing their talents on ending gender inequity, racial discrimination, the machinery of empire, and the prison-industrial complex, we are slowly but surely shedding our legacy of being technocrats and Yes Men (and Women) for the state, instead assuming increasingly visible roles as national leaders in multifaceted movements for social justice. To further this trend, this essay engages in four moves. First, it reviews some of the lingering conditions that hinder our pursuit of engaged social justice scholarship and activism; this section of the essay is written in a traditional, academically critical mode. Second, it offers an intellectual history of the movements and subgenres of communication scholarship that have led us to this juncture of our field's evolution; this part of the essay is written in a retrospective and celebratory mode. Third, it offers some cautionary tales and then some thankful reckonings regarding the dilemmas and rewards of pursuing engaged social justice scholarship and activism; because these pages are based on my personal experiences, this aspect of the essay is autobiographical, even confessional. Fourth, the essay closes with a meditation on the existential question of how to approach scholarship and activism in the face of overwhelming obstacles; this closing movement of the essay is written in a philosophical, even sermonic mode. Written amidst the worst economic crash since 1929, in a season when talk of another deadly pandemic (this time the H1N1, “Swine Flu”) fills the airwaves, as the nation continues to pour billions of dollars into catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as the homeless roam the streets below my third-floor window in alcoholic and mental health stupors, I hope both to add a sense of urgency to Bochner's call and to answer his question about “what is our mission?” by advocating for engaged communication scholarship that teaches, studies, and joins political projects committed to building social justice. Those of us who already engage in such projects suspect that we might not end racism or imperialism or the prison-system in our lifetimes; consequently, even as we tackle the day's pressing problems, we also need to find ways to not become consumed by those struggles. Indeed, we have all learned that the haggard activist, angry and enflamed, accusing others of their transgressions while embodying anxiety, achieves little, alienates many, and often succumbs to despair. Working toward the third phrase that comprises my title, joyful commitment, thus asks us to pledge ourselves to work for social justice and for personal growth, to be both radical in our demands and gentle in our demeanor, both outraged by inequality and oppression and joyous in our commitments to end them. As Martin Luther King Jr. asked in a speech from 1957, where he called upon the power of revolutionary love, “Agape means nothing sentimental or basically affectionate. It means understanding, redeeming good will for all men [and women]. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return” (p. 22). As this essay unfolds, I thus ask my colleagues to consider how the field of communication can work for social justice while embodying joyful commitment, hence honoring King's call to build our political projects from a place of “overflowing love” (p. 22; see also Hartnett, 2007; Kelly, 2005). Citizenship Training, Embedded Intellectuals, & Theory Wolves If you add up the pedagogical efforts of the tens of thousands of us who have taught public speaking over the past century, then the number of students we have helped to learn how to speak in public, write clean sentences, use libraries, and engage in the other intellectual and creative tasks that empower them to be more effective citizens would number in the hu,ndreds of thousands. As the founders of the field knew well, public speaking skills (and increasingly the other mediated forms of communication that we teach and study) are tools of persuasion and enlightenment, even weapons for progressive social change when handled adroitly. And so I would like to begin this essay by suggesting that we should all feel a sense of pride in the fact that the field of communication is based in part on a commitment to enhancing civic engagement. As Jerry Hauser (2004) observes, harking all the way back to “democracy's Athenian roots,” and using the term “rhetoric” to encapsulate the modes of citizenship training that I am alluding to here, “Rhetoric lay at the heart of citizenship and of the citizen's public identity. This position of centrality is rhetoric's birthright” (pp. 1, 12). From this perspective, our discipline is enmeshed to its very core in the larger promises of democratic governance, Enlightenment principles, and civic life. I will focus my comments below on other matters, but want to foreground my support for the premise that teaching communication is a noble civic duty. 3 We have been taught to celebrate this tradition of teaching public speaking and other communication skills as the building blocks of democracy; and while we could question that “birthright,” particularly the ways it has ignored questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, nationalism, and other political topics, I propose that we also need to deepen an ongoing conversation about some other troubling skeletons. For a new generation of critical communication historians is unearthing the startling ways that our field, far from being committed to citizenship training and democratic engagement, has in fact functioned from its inception as a tool of the state. Dating back to the decades after World War I and then accelerating dramatically around World War II, these critics argue, the field of communication has been both embedded within and eagerly complicit with the National Security State. As Jack Bratich notes, “The history of communication is bound up with state and corporate interests” (2008, p. 25). Feeding off of grants and contracts from such “interests,” communication scholars were implicitly embedded within the political imperatives and intellectual frameworks of the Cold War state, hence functioning less as bearers of brave new truths and teachers of engaged citizens than as clerks for the massive machinery that spewed out generations of dogmatic anticommunism, love of the Bomb, cheerful consumerism, and unquestioned U.S. international dominance (Taylor & Hartnett, 2000; see also Greene & Hicks, 2005). The field's record of studying, let alone confronting, the inequalities embodied in gendered and racializing discourses are equally thin, albeit improving rapidly. Save for the recent efforts of John McHale and those of us associated with PCARE, our field's stand on prisons and the death penalty has amounted to an almost century-long silence (see Hartnett & Larson, 2006; McHale, 2002, 2007; PCARE, 2007). Surely, for every one communication scholar who has worked alongside an NGO or as a community activist, there have been many more who worked either as consultants for the state or as the servants of monster corporations that make millions of dollars by exploiting the labor of those invisible workers most communication scholars will never see, hear from, or think about. And still today, if you flip through the announcements of recent grant recipients in any issue of Spectra, it will become clear where many of our colleague's solidarities lie. Both historically and in the present, then, many members of the field of communication have served and continue to serve those in power—in short, an alarming number of our peers are clerks for the state. 4 Any discussion about the future of the field of communication and its commitments to teaching, studying, and engaging social justice issues must therefore confront this curious contradiction buried within our institutional DNA: historically, our notions of how public speaking can enhance the democracy have been so limited regarding race, class, gender, and other obvious political issues, that our call to engage in citizenship training has amounted to producing departments of well-behaved bourgeois debaters. There are triumphs buried in the dross, to be sure, but they are too few and too far between. At the same time, the field's high-flying grant-getting stars have tended to favor projects sanctioned by corporate interests and National Security State imperatives, meaning that much of our work has not so much enhanced the democracy as enriched capitalists and provided the military-industrial complex with the veneer of intellectual legitimacy. As we shall see below, one response to this predicament has been to turn to European critical theorists, albeit with curious consequences. 5


The world has already ended for people of color—a death culture focused on extinction masks the oppression and exploitation of white supremacy

OMOLADE 84 City College Center for Worker Education in New York City

Barbara-a historian of black women for the past twenty years and an organizer in both the women’s and civil rights/black power movements; Women of Color and the Nuclear Holocaust; WOMEN’S STUDIES QUARTERLY, Vol. 12., No. 2, Teaching about Peace, War, and Women in the Military, Summer, p. 12;

In April, 1979, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency released a report on the effects of nuclear war that concludes that, in a general nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, 25 to 100 million people would be killed. This is approximately the same number of African people who died between 1492 and 1890 as a result of the African slave trade to the New World. The same federal report also comments on the destruction of urban housing that would cause massive shortages after a nuclear war, as well as on the crops that would be lost, causing massive food shortages. Of course, for people of color the world over, starvation is already a common problem, when, for example, a nation’s crops are grown for export rather than to feed its own people. And the housing of people of color throughout the world’s urban areas is already blighted and inhumane: families live in shacks, shanty towns, or on the streets; even in the urban areas of North America, the poor may live without heat or running water. For people of color, the world as we knew it ended centuries ago. Our world, with its own languages, customs and ways, ended. And we are only now beginning to see with increasing clarity that our task is to reclaim that world, struggle for it, and rebuild it in our own image. The “death culture” we live in has convinced many to be more concerned with death than with life, more willing to demonstrate for “survival at any cost” than to struggle for liberty and peace with dignity. Nuclear disarmament becomes a safe issue when it is not linked to the daily and historic issues of racism, to the ways in which people of color continue to be murdered. Acts of war, nuclear holocausts, and genocide have already been declared on our jobs, our housing, our schools, our families, and our lands. As women of color, we are warriors, not pacifists. We must fight as a people on all fronts, or we will continue to die as a people. We have fought in people’s wars in China, in Cuba, in Guinea-Bissau, and in such struggles as the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and in countless daily encounters with landlords, welfare departments, and schools. These struggles are not abstractions, but the only means by which we have gained the ability to eat and to provide for the future of our people. We wonder who will lead the battle for nuclear disarmament with the vigor and clarity that women of color have learned from participating in other struggles. Who will make the political links among racism, sexism, imperialism, cultural integrity, and nuclear arsenals and housing? Who will stand up?

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