Against quarantine

Angela Mitropoulos’ article “Against Quarantine” is an important intervention in the debate around the COVID-19 crisis, particularly as it provokes many positions currently upheld and contemplated, regarding concepts such as vulnerability, solidarity, precaution, etc. Now, as if proof were in any way required, Trump’s television address of March 12 made it patently clear how “quarantine rationalizes xenophobia and calls for ethnonationalist separation”, and how “the resort to quarantines draws on the biological-racial understanding of nations as discrete organic entities and prevents or displaces a social understanding of health and disease”.

 

Christmas Island Immigration Reception and Processing Centre, Australia (2008)

At the moment it seems of the utmost importance to be caring AND anti-nationalist, to take the epidemic seriously AND fight all the separatist undertones of the lockdown. The literature on the politics of quarantine (and its history) is vast and often instructive (just have a look at Neal Arthur Dickerson, Civil Rights: HIV Testing, Contact Tracing & Quarantine [1993] or Alison Bashford, Quarantine: Local and Global Histories [2016]), and might help to support the very “social understanding of health and disease” Mitropoulos is advocating. TH

March 15th, 2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes
Interface

Sara Ahmed on the perfomativity of disgust (from The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 2004): “To name something as disgusting is to transfer the stickiness of the word ‘disgust’ to an object, which henceforth becomes generated as the very thing that is spoken. The relationship between the stickiness of the sign and the stickiness of the object is crucial to the performativity of disgust as well as the apparent resistance of disgust reactions to ‘newness’ in terms of the generation of different kinds of objects. The object that is generated as a disgusting (bad) object through the speech act comes to stick. It becomes sticky and acquires a fetish quality, which then engenders its own effects.”

November 7th, 2020, Tom

David Graeber (1961-2020) on What Would It Take (from his The Democracy Project. A History, a Crisis, a Movement, 2013, p. 193): “We have little idea what sort of organizations, or for that matter, technologies, would emerge if free people were unfettered to use their imagination to actually solve collective problems rather than to make them worse. But the primary question is: how do we even get there? What would it take to allow our political and economic systems to become a mode of collective problem solving rather than, as they are now, a mode of collective war?”

September 7th, 2020, Tom

T.J. Demos on why cultural practitioners should never surrender, via tranzit.sk:  “For artists, writers, and curators, as art historians and teachers, the meaning-production of an artwork is never finished, never fully appropriated and coopted, in my view, and we should never surrender it; the battle over significance is ongoing. We see that battle rise up in relation to racist and colonial monuments these days in the US, the UK, and South Africa. While the destruction of such monuments results from and is enabling of radical politics, it’s still not enough until the larger institutions that support and maintain their existence as well as the continuation of the politics they represent are also torn down. This is urgent as well in the cultural sphere, including the arts institutions, universities, art markets, discursive sphere of magazines and journals, all in thrall to neoliberalism, where we must recognize that it’s ultimately inadequate to simply inject critical or radical content into these frameworks, which we know excel at incorporating those anti-extractivist expressions into further forms of cultural capital and wealth accumulation. What’s required is more of the building of nonprofit and community-based institutions, organizing radical political horizons and solidarity between social formations.”

August 21st, 2020, Tom
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