Thursday, April 18, 2013

War on Drugs, War on Terror

Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow is generative for many of the reasons Elizabeth flagged for us in class today, not the least of which is the question of audience. As we noted from the preface, Alexander desires to consciousness raise, edify, and support in solidarity her different expected readers. From this perspective, her elision of one major issue is understandable; specifically, the role of US racist incarceration practices domestically in relationship to incarceration abroad. I think that in order to grasp the enormity of this disciplinary project of the modern neoliberal carceral state, we must grapple with the simultaneous explosion of domestic incarceration, mainly of men of color, with international incarceration of mostly Muslim men of color (think the current hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay). These two projects cannot remain in isolation lest the international scope of freedom movements, a theme we’ve discussed all semester, eludes our discussion. I think especially in light of the class discussion on Tuesday, we need to consider the ramifications of wider trends of securitization under the War on Terror and the War on Drugs to theorize how state apparatuses (including private sector contractors/co-conspirators) work to control racialized bodies.
As one consideration for future discussion, I want to suggest reading the media coverage of the recent attacks in Boston as a psychic synthesis of two sorts of national traumatic imaginaries: the foreign Muslim/Arab terrorist (conflated in coverage, not in lived experience of course) and the domestic criminal black male. What does the flurry of reports on a “Saudi national” in custody juxtaposed with the description of a “dark-skinned male” wearing a hoodie reveal about the ways Americans conceptualize crime within and outside the nation? I suggest inhabiting this space between two issues typically treated as discrete concerns as a way to understand the issue of U.S. Black Freedom Movements as already-always international in scope. Especially after reading the article Elizabeth posted about the "person of interest" debacle, I'd like to consider the ways in which racialization operates in an age of colorblindness and mass incarceration.  

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