Tag Archives: giorgio agamben

Nothing But Eyes To Weep

In a previous post, we touched on the work of Giorgio Agamben regarding the “state of exception”, and the concept of “bare life” as it applied to extra-judicial detention at Guantanamo Bay. In her recently published One Long Night, Andrea Pitzer explores the legal and historical roots of concentration camps, among them the American Civil War’s Lieber Code of Conduct and Sherman’s scorched earth March to the Sea.

Excerpts from her introduction below, with images added by DP.

SAVANNAH

COLUMBIA

NAGASAKI

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As Ciphers Drift

In the midst of our ongoing research into the roots of political degeneracy in both Europe and the US, we stumbled across a 2012 interview with Giorgio Agamben, excerpted below. The images are from Anne Hardy.

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ANNE HARDY, DRIFT (2007)

DRIFT

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CIPHER

CIPHER


A Chasm in the Present

As we continue to explore the rich philosophical overtones within the subtle and complex thought of Giorgio Agamben, we came across an interview on the Verso website. We pick up the thread following Agamben’s suggestion that humanity, always a work in process, must measure itself against the past through an archeological scrutiny of religion and law.

The images are from the hand and eye of the tremendously undervalued Eli Levin, an artist once thrown out of art school for his refusal to accept the sovereignty of abstraction. Strangely, he insisted on painting and drawing what he saw.

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Standing Prisoner

STANDING PRISONER

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MAN IN A BOX

MAN IN A BOX

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SUBMISSION

SUBMISSION

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Bare Life

SPACE OF REDUCTION

SPACE OF REDUCTION

On January 11, marking twelve years of existence for the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay, Major General Michael Lehndert, who served as the complex’s first commanding officer, released the following statement:

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Though we applaud the general’s courage in publicly expressing such strongly worded dissent, his statement implies that Guantanamo Bay is some sort of perverse aberration in the otherwise morally immaculate history of the republic. Yet every aspect of human rights abuse at Guantanamo Bay has descended through a long lineage, as documented by Alfred McCoy in his masterful analytical histories, A Question of Torture, and Torture and Impunity.

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In his immensely important body of work, Giorgio Agamben examines rhythms of illegality and the reduction of citizens into “packages” as defining characteristics of the “state of exception”:

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Beyond functioning as a site of incarceration and life extraction (“cleansing” subjects of their life experience, or the transformation of lebenswelt into “actionable intelligence”), Guantanamo Bay is also a Total Theater for the performance of domination over perceived or imagined enemies; a laboratory, generating a rich research environment for the theory and practice of “learned helplessness”; and a school, teaching a global populace that subjectivity (as expressed in a a life story for which each individual is the undisputed narrator) is precarious, fragile, and susceptible to sudden and absolute dissolution, reduction into a condition of Agamben’s “bare life”, or as life incessantly exposed to a meaningless death.

HOMO SACER: SPACE OF RESISTANCE

HOMO SACER: SPACE OF RESISTANCE

In the end, Guantanamo Bay signifies an experimental stage for impulses and rhythms within the soverign body that may soon become more generally manifest. Do you, DP reader, have any confidence at all in the sensual and political space that separates you and yours from the existential experience of Shaker Aamer? We are not in a territory of reclaiming or recuperating our “moral position”, difficult in any event for a republic based on the genocidal eradication of native cultures; no, the genesis of the state of exception is far deeper and more complex than that.

When the void become constitutive, forms of life that lay claim to the sanctity of autonomous subjectivity go up in smoke.

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WHERE THERE IS SMOKE….