Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics (1)

Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics
By Sherene H.Razack , University of Toronto Press

« Hannah Arendt argued that Holocaust history shows that Jews were perceived and treated by German society as marginal and expendable long before their extermination was acted out. Casting Out shows the complex ways in which Muslims in the West are slowly being driven to become today's exterminables. This is not where its merit ends, however. It is worth remembering that the Holocaust was not a historical inevitability. Those struggling against the dark forces of extermination can succeed, and this book is certainly part of this important struggle. » Ghassan Hage, Professor of Anthropology, University of Sydney.

“Three allegorical figures have come to dominate the social landscape of the 'war on terror' and its ideological underpinning of a clash of civilizations: the dangerous Muslim man, the imperilled Muslim woman, and the civilized European, the latter a figure who is seldom explicitly named but who nevertheless anchors the first two figures. This book explores some of the places in law and society in the West where these figures animate a story about a family of white nations, a civilization, obliged to use force and terror to defend itself against a menacing cultural Other. The story is not just a story, of course, but is the narrative scaffold for the making of an empire dominated by the United States and the white nations who are its allies. Supplying the governing logic of several laws and legal processes, both in North America and in Europe, the story underwrites the expulsion of Muslims from political community, a casting out that takes the form of stigmatization, surveillance, incarceration, abandonment, torture, and bombs. “
“In this book I offer two interlinked arguments about the contemporary context of the 'war on terror'. First, race thinking, the denial of a common bond of humanity between people of European descent and those who are not, remains a defining feature of the world order. Second, this 'colour-lined' world is one increasingly governed by the logic of the exception and the camps of abandoned or 'rightless' people it creates. The camp, created as a state of exception, is a place where, paradoxically, the law has determined that the rule of law does not apply. Since there is no common bond of humanity between the camp's inmates and those outside, there is no common law. For those marked as outside humanity, law reserves the space of the exception. I argue in this book that the abandonment of populations, an abandonment configured as emergency, is accomplished as a racial project.

It is now widely argued that today's empire is most distinguished by the proliferation of camps and by the culture of exception that underpins the eviction of increasing numbers of people from political community. Camps range from those whose inmates are 'terror' suspects wearing black hoods (as the cover of this book shows) to those of asylum seekers and their children, facilities hidden away in the deserts of Australia or the suburbs of Texas and Toronto, camps for migrant workers on the Niagara peninsula where workers live in barrack-like surroundings and do not have freedom of movement, and conventional prisons whose inmates nevertheless do not enjoy prisoners' rights and spend long periods in solitary confinement. Camps may even extend to an entire state, as several have argued of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. All such spaces are distinguished by a legally authorized suspension of law and the creation of communities of people without 'the rights to have rights', as Hannah Arendt put it long ago when describing the impact of the First World War and the creation of large groups of people who were homeless, stateless, and 'rightless'. Camps are places where the rules of the world cease to apply.

Communities without the right to have rights are significantly different from communities who are merely discriminated against. They are constituted as a different order of humanity altogether by the virtue of having no political community willing to guarantee their rights, and whatever is meted out to the 'rightless' becomes of no concern to others. Indeed, their very expulsion from political community fortifies the nation state. As Hanson and Stepputat observe:

The expulsion of someone who used to have rights as a citizen, or simply to categorize some individuals in a society as a form of life that is beyond the reach of dignity and full humanity and thus not even a subject of a benevolent power, is the most elementary operation of sovereign power – be it as a government in a nation-state, a local authority, a community, a warlord, or a local militia.

For many who observe the increasing numbers of 'rightless' people and the creation of camps, it is clear that those most often evicted from political community are racialized. I am particularly interested in how such evictions of racialized peoples make possible the production of white identities – as kin groups, families, nations. Materially and symbolically, camps help to create and sustain a racial and neoliberal order in which white people come to know themselves as a superior people, a community that must fortify itself against pre-modern racial Others who do not share its values, beliefs, practices, and level of civility. Such a racially homogeneous community is nevertheless one made up of subjects who imagine themselves as raceless individuals, consumers, and agents without defining links to community – in other words, as citizens who have the freedom to make their own choices.

Race Thinking
To understand the place of race in the concept of a modern world menaced by a pre-modern one, a world of camps, it is useful to consider what Hannah Arendt, in The origins of Totalitarianism, called race thinking. Race thinking is a structure of thought that divides up the world between the deserving and the undeserving according to descent. As Irene Silverblatt has suggested, race thinking encapsulates a much broader phenomenon than racism, since it refers to 'any mode of construing and engaging social hierarchies through the lens of descent. Race thinking enables us to understand 'how a relatively innocent category (like color) could become virulent, how politically defined characteristics (like nationality) could so easily become inheritable traits. In our context, race thinking reveals itself in the phrase 'Canadian values' or 'American values', uttered so sanctimoniously by prime ministers and presidents when they articulate what is being defended in the 'war on terror'. Drawing on the modern idea of race traced by David Goldberg as 'shared social characteristics, ones perhaps deemed as natural properties of the group', and bolstered by what Goldberg identifies as the fourth features of race thinking (the rhetoric of descent, claims of common origins, a sense of kinship and belonging, and the naturalization of social relations), values talk conceals the hierarchy it expresses. Echoing a long-standing imperial belief that Northern peoples possessed an innate ability to govern themselves and were by nature more rational (for Rudyard Kipling, it was 'the climate that puts iron and grit into men's bones'), these statements simply reinstall bloodlines through the idea that some groups have a greater innate capacity for rationality than others.

For Arendt, who drew on Erich Voegelin, race thinking matures into racism through its use as a political weapon. Racism's graduation from an obscure free opinion to a full-fledged ideology occurred with imperialism and the 'fateful days of the scramble for Africa.' In imperialism, race thinking combined with bureaucracy, 'the organization of the great game of expansion in which every area was considered a stepping stone to further involvements and every people an instrument for further conquest. As a 'scavenger ideology' (to use George Mosse's words), race thinking picks up political projects here and there and annexes itself to ideas such as evolutionnist doctrines or romanticism with its notions of inherited genius, eventually growing into the full-blown power of racism. We may not find that President Georges W.Bush pursues a race project as single-mindedly as did Adolf Hitler, but we can see how race thinking (the clash of a modern and pre-modern civilization) is annexed to a political project (control of oil, capitalist accumulation, power) and erupts into a full-blown racism when united with ideas about universal values, individualism, and the market.

When race thinking unites with bureaucracy, when, in others words, it is systematized and attached to a project of accumulation, it loses its standing as a prejudice and becomes instead an organizing principle. In our time, one result is a securitized state in which it is possible to know that 'the passenger who has ordered a special meal is non-smoking Muslim in seat 3K' and to arrange for that passenger's eviction from the aircraft. Racial distinctions become so routinized that a racial hierarchy is maintained without requiring the component of individual actors who are personally hostile towards Muslims. Increasing numbers of people find themselves exiled from political community through bureaucratic processes in which each state official can claim, as did Adolf Eichmann about arranging the transport of Jews to Nazi Germany, that he was only doing his duty. In the 'war on terror', race thinking accustoms us to the idea that the suspension of rights is warranted in the interests of national security. Captured in the phrase 'they are not like us', and also necessarily in the idea that 'they' must be killed so that 'we' can live, race thinking becomes embedded in law and bureaucracy so that the suspension of rights appears not as a violence but as the law itself. Violence against the racialized Other comes to be understood as necessary in order for civilization to flourish, something the state must do to preserve itself. Race thinking, Silverblatt reminds us in her study of the Spanish Inquisition, usually comes clothed in an 'aura of rationality and civilization.'

Although race thinking varies, for Muslims and Arabs it is underpinned by the idea that modern enlightened, secular peoples must protect themselves from pre-modern, religious peoples whose loyalty to tribe and community reigns over their commitment to the rule of law. The marking of belonging to the realm of culture and religion, as opposed to the realm of law and reason, has devastating consequences. There is a disturbing spatializing of morality that occurs in the story of pre-modern peoples versus modern ones. We have reason; they do not. We are located in modernity; they are not. Significantly because they have not advanced as we have, it is our moral obligation to correct, discipline, and keep them in line and to defend ourselves against their irrational excesses. In doing all of these things, the West has often denied the benefits of modernity to those it considers to be outside of it. Evicted from the universal, and thus from civilization and progress, the non-West occupies a zone outside the law. Violence may be directed at it with impunity.

To divide up the world between the civilized and the uncivilized according to a line of descent requires a racially delineated community of 'original' citizens, a 'volk' constituted against foreigners. Foucault has argued that the modern state, in constituting itself as sovereign and as having the power over life, requires racism. Racism enables us to live with the murderous function of the state and to understand the killing of Others as a way of purifying and regenerating one's own race: 'The fact that the other dies does not mean simply that I live in the sense that his death guarantees my safety; the death of the other, the death of the bad race, of the inferior race (or the degenerate, or the abnormal) is something that will make life in general healthier: healthier and purer.' George Mosse developed a related argument with respect to European racism, pointing out that racism is 'no mere articulation of prejudice,' but is instead 'a fully blown system of thought.'

All racists held to a certain concept of beauty – white and classical – to middle-class virtues of work, of moderation and honor, and thought that these were exemplified through outward appearance. Most racists consequently endowed inferior races whether black or Jew with several identical properties such as lack of beauty, and charged them with the lack of those middle-class virtues, and finally with lack of any metaphysical depth.

In the context of Nazi Germany, Mosse has written, racism “defended utopia against its enemies.' Racism could embrace people who were not themselves racists, Mosse argued, principally through appeal to 'the thought that some had to be killed so that others could live to the full.' When we look for signs of racism's presence, then, it is not simply to be found in the racial hostility some individuals bear towards others not of their race, but also in the ideas that the state must protect itself from those who do not share its values, ideals of beauty, and middle-class virtues. It is by virtue of the foreigner's inherent difference (manifested, as Mosse has suggested, through outward appearance, including cultural and religious practices and accent) to an imagined homogeneous citizenry, a difference understood as inferiority, that states make the claim that utopia is threatened and invoke state-of-exception measures.

The Camp
Legal measures that suspend rights in the interests of national security have been variously described as state-of-exception, state-of-emergency, war measures or state-of-siege measures. Whether they are found in immigration provisions, as are Canadian security certificates, whereby detainees are not entitled to see all the evidence against them, or in anti-terrorism acts, they share the paradox that they are laws that suspend the rule of law. It should be noted that the threats against which society must be defended, to use Foucault's memorable phrase, are multiple. As Balibar has observed, they can be threats 'stemming from the economic forces of 'globalization', 'criminal' immigration networks, religious or cultural 'communitarianism', and finally cosmopolitan intellectuals and nongovernmental organizations that allow themselves to be seduced by a 'postnational' ideology. As Aihwa Ong argues, at the heart of neoliberalism is the idea and the practice of the exception, the notion that the government has the right to do anything in the interest of governance. Capital constructs spaces of exception, and a graduated or variegated sovereignty – where, for example, corporations have the right to suspend the law – is the hallmark of neoliberalism. Exceptions operate with varying regimes of in carceration, imprisoning some in migrant worker camps or domestic worker zones and confining others within gated communities but removing all such communities from the reach of the law.

There is now a great deal of scholarly attention given to states of exception and to the camps they authorize, not only because the 'war on terror' has brought us Guantanamo Bay with its inmates who are held without charge and indefinitely detained, but also because of the large numbers of migrants and refugees in detention centres throughout the Western world. It is useful to recall that before it became an interrogation centre for terror suspects in the 1990s, Guantanamo Bay held Haitian refugees who were declared to pose an HIV threat. The Clinton administration attempted to justify the inhumane treatment meted out to these refugees on the grounds that Guantanamo was a law-free zone. The 'war on terror' did not mark the beginning of a resurgence of camps or the spread of camp logic. Indeed, when, in 1995, Zygmunt Bauman posed the question of whether or not the twentieth century would be remembered as 'the age of camps', he had in mind Auschwitz, the Soviet Gulag, the Rwandan genocide, refugee camps, and prisons in the United States with their ever-growing populations of colour and their increasing suspensions of prisoners' rights. Similarly, Giorgio Agamben, in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1995), analyses the stadium in Baril (where Italian police rounded up illegal Albanian immigrants in 1991 before deporting them) as a camp. Agamben's examples include airport detention centres for refugees and the camps into which the Weimar government rounded up Jews.

What the 'war on terror' has prompted, however, is an answer in the affirmative to Bauman's question. The camp has become the rule, and our culture is now globally one of exception. [...]Camps then, are not simply contemporary excesses born of the West's current quest for security, but instead represent a more ominous, permanent arrangement of who is and is not a part of the human community. The exception, Ong shows, produces new kinds of citizens, principally those who are subjected to neoliberal considerations and those who are excluded from it. Cautioning us that it would be a mistake to understand citizenship as structured by a simple opposition between those within the state and those outside of it, Ong emphasizes that the exception be considered as a practice of governance. It can create 'new economic possibilities, spaces and techniques for governing a population.'

With this caution in mind, we can consider the logic of the exception, its confirmation of sovereign power, its multiple practices of inclusion and exclusion, as sustaining a neoliberal and racial order that is nonetheless one filled with contradictions and fissures.

Law and the Right to Punish Strangers

Because suspensions of the rule of law turn on a logic that normative citizens must be protected from those who threaten the social order, a category to which race gives content, those who consider themselves 'unmarked' or original easily find them defensible. Agamben has proposed that we see the state of exception as the 'preliminary condition' for understanding the relationship of law to the living. Following his own directions, and understanding a state of exception as 'a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries but of entire categories of citizens who for some reason cannot be integrated into the political system. Agamben takes us on a sobering journey through American, English, Italian, and German law to show how states of exception become lasting practices of government that enable the state to mark who is a member of political community and who is not. Although we might contest the rigidity of Agamben's account, it is the extraordinary power to cast out that he documents that should stop us in our tracks. Offering a contemporary example, Agamben writes of the 13 November 2001 American presidential decree that authorizes indefinite detention and hearing by military tribunal of non-citizens suspected of involvement in terrorist activity. While aliens suspected of terrorist activity could be taken into custody under the Patriot Act, the 13 November presidential decree 'radically erases any legal status of the individual, thus producing a legally unnamable and unclassifiable being.

Neither prisoners nor persons accused, but simple 'detainees' they [the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay] aer the object of a pure de facto rule, of a detention that is indefinite not only in the temporal sense but in its very nature as well, since it is entirely removed from the law and from judicial oversight. The only thing to which it could possibly be compared is the legal situation of the Jews in the Nazi lager [camps], who, along with their citizenship, had lost every legal identity, but at least retained their identity as Jews.

Several scholars draw attention to the relationship between race, violence, and the law that are evident in states of exception. In pointing out that the slave plantation was a space of exception, Paul Gilroy reminds us not to overlook 'how colonial societies and conflicts provided the context in which concentration camps emerged as a political administration, population management, warfare, and coerced labor. It is the idea of a modern civilization encountering a pre-modern one that produced the colonial world as 'a permanent, tropical exception from common law applicable in Europe,' Hansen and Stepputat note. What the state of exception made possible in the colonies was a brutal inscription of the power of the colonizers on the bodies of the colonized, a violence that was legally authorized. Such violence became socially acceptable, Edward Said brilliantly showed, through ideas that the colonized only understand force and cannot be governed through the rule of law as it applied to Europeans.

Race perpetually tested the limits of universal law and the exception resolved this tension by providing two different regimes of law under one banner. Mbembe shows for the African context how colonial governance was based on a state of exception, with bureaucrats and company officials possessing a different power than other citizens. The violence of such regimes acted as authority and as morality, instructing all in the power of the law and its spaces of non-law, and consequently in who belonged to political community and who did not. Nasser Hussain provides an example of the logic of the jurisprudence of emergency as authority and morality in his analysis of the amritsar massacre in nineteenth-century British India. Relying on the authority of martial law, the British General Dyer ordered his troops to fire into a crowd of Indians until 379 lay dead and thousands injured. Despite the best efforts of the Home Office to depict Dyer's actions as those of a madman driven to excesses, Dyer himself explained his behaviour as duty – the duty to teach the natives a lesson or, in his words, 'to produce a sufficient moral effect from a military point of view. The killing would have gone on, Dyer asserted, until the lesson was learnt. Only the lack of bullets stopped it. Dyer, Hussain comments, 'unabashedly links the performativity of violence to the project of moral education,' understanding completely that martial law's purpose was none other than the reconstitution of the authority of the state and the inscription of obedience on the bodies of the colonized.

Through emergency, colonial law provided for its own failure, a practice born out of the need to set up a political system that both maintained the rule of law and was able to respond to the exigencies of the colonial situation, one that was rife with 'dissent, and 'disobedience'.
Wherever sovereign power is exercised, and whether or not the performances of sovereignty are spectacular and public as they were in the Amritsar massacre or appear as 'scientific/technical rationalities of management and punishment of bodies, as I shall argue they are in terror arrests and security certificate hearings, such power remains embedded in the idea of the citizen and thus in the boundary between members of political community and those outside of it. Violence is 'fetishized as a weapon of reason and preservation of freedom of the citizens vis-à-vis the threats from outsiders, from internal enemies, and from those not yet fit for citizenship – slaves and colonial subjects.' Sovereignty thus becomes 'embodied in citizens sharing territory and culture, and sharing the right to punish strangers.

If we look for how sovereign power constructs its authority through its 'capacity for visiting violence on human bodies,' colonial forms of sovereignty were always more excessive than those that prevailed in Europe. However, the colony as a formation of terror revealed the structure of the European juridical order. That order rested on the logic of the juridical equality of all states (each possessed the right to wage war – to kill – and no state could make claims to rule outside its borders), but also on the equally fundamental tenet that this logic did not apply to those parts of the globe outside Europe available for colonization. If Europe laid claim to humanity, Gilroy notes, that humanity 'could exist only in the neatly bounded, territorial units where true and authentic culture could take root under the unsentimental eye of a ruthlessly eugenic government. If the nation existed within the higher logic of a natural hierarchy, that logic also ordered those within the nation itself. Extending Foucault's argument that racism was the ordering principle establishing who shall live and who shall die, Gilroy suggests that at the summit of imperial power, race thinking and race science combined with nationalism to invest the nation with characteristics associated with biocultural kinship in which new forms of duty and mutual obligation appeared to regulate relationships between members of the collective, while those who fell beyond the boundaries of the official community were despised, reviled, and subjected to entirely different political and juridical procedures, especially if they did not benefit from the protection of an equivalent political body.

Gilroy's reminder of the nation imagined as a biocultural kin group that must be fortified against culturally and racially different others is especially relevant to today's empire of camps.

Gender and the Camp

Etienne Balibar has remarked that in this time of a single supranational power, it is through the right to exclude that the weakened nation state 'demonstrates (at low cost) the force that it claims to hold and at the same time reassures those who suspect its destitution.' In the 'intensive universalism' of contemporary nation states, Balibar argues, 'anthropological differences' become the reason to exclude. If all citizens are entitled to equal rights, then those who are considered unequal by virtue of pathological, sexual, or cultural difference can be summarily excluded from citizenship on the grounds that they pose a threat to the nation. The racism of empire treats differences between cultures and traditions as insurmountable; racial hierarchy becomes in this way an effect of culture, an outcome of what are considered immutable cultural differences. In the 'war on terror', Muslim cultures and traditions become innate characteristics that permanently mark Muslims as belonging outside the polity. Gender is crucial to the confinement of Muslims to the pre-modern, as post-colonial scholarship has long shown. Considered irredeemably fanatical, irrational, and thus dangerous, Muslim men are also marked as deeply misogynist patriarchs who have not progressed into the age of gender equality, and who indeed cannot. For the West, Muslim women are the markers of their communities' place in modernity.

How does it come to be that visions of veiled women dance in the heads of so many that 'codes de vie' must be devised declaring that all women must show their faces in the small North American town of Hérouxville, Québec? In the unconscious structure of Orientalism, the veiled Oriental woman, Yegenoglu observes, signifies the Orient as seductive and dangerous, but the powerful allure and productive power of the fantasy of Orientalism has meant that the European man must dream a dream of possession of the veiled woman if he is to know himself as modern, all-knowing and rational. The longing to possess, to unveil, is often expressed as rescue, and in this way it is a fantasy shared by both men and women. Saving Brown women from Brown men, as Gayatri Spivak famously put it, has long been a major plank in the colonial ship since it serves to mark the colonizer as modern and civilized and provides at the same time an important reason to keep Brown men in line through practices of violence. In the post-9/11 era, this aspect of colonial governance has been revitalized. Today it is not only the people of a small white village in Canada who believe that Muslim women must be saved. Progressive people, among them many feminists, have come to believe in the urgency of saving Muslim women from their patriarchal communities. As a practice of governance, the idea of the imperilled Muslim woman is unparalleled in its capacity to regulate. Since Muslim women, like all other women, are imperilled in patriarchy, and since the rise of conservative Islam increases this risk (as does the rise of conservative Christianity and Hinduism), it is hard to resist calls to 'save the women.'

Empire is a gendered project not only in the sense that what happens to colonized men often differs from what happens to colonized women, but because the work that the ruling race does is also stratified along gender lines. Whereas it is principally the men of the West who engage in actual policing (with notable exceptions in camps such as Abu Ghraib where there were also some women guards), it falls to the women of the ruling race to police the colour line in a different way. They mark the West as a place of values, and the non-West as a place of culture, a line in the sand drawn by comparing their own apparently emancipated status with that of their non-Western sisters. The Western subject is 'an unavoidably masculine position,' and Western women, Yegenoglu notes, can access the universal only through asserting themselves in the same fantasy of possessing of the Oriental woman.

In this book, I devote considerable space to how some Western feminists participate in empire through the politics of rescue, unhesitatingly installing the idea that it is through gender that we can tell the difference between those who are modern and those who are not. As I argue in several chapters, Western feminists fail to see their own implication in the neoliberal politics of empire, understanding only that they are more enlightened than their worse-off sisters in the South. Gender operates as a kind of technology of empire enabling the West to make the case for its own modernity and for its civilizational projects around the globe. Where gender is relied upon in this way, Muslim women find themselves stranded between the patriarchs of their own community and the empire's bombs. That is, either we accept the diagnosis that our cultures and our men are barbaric and take the cure (the bombs on our heads and the camps), or we endure patriarchal violence. From laws against forced marriages in Norway to the banning of faith-based arbitration in Canada, I will offer several examples of how Muslim women are socially constructed on the horns of dilemma.

Sherene H.Razack

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