posts tagged: violence

The artist’s patriarchy says, “The creative man is exempt from interpretive labor1 by his efforts to endlessly interpret himself.” His privilege (and ignorance) is excused and upheld by his perceived sensitivity, no matter how shallow the affect.

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Money: because promises are best made and kept looking down the barrel of a gun [!]

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David Graeber has spent the last decade challenging the line drawn between scholar and activist. While many academics fancy themselves “radicals,” the anthropologist professor has been an active participant in anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups and organizing. Graeber has used his skill-set as an anthropologist to compile ethnographic data—far away from the classroom and campus, to be sure—regarding the contemporary anarchist movement in North America; the results were published in 2009 as Direct Action: An Ethnography. David Graeber is the author of several books, including Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology and, most recently, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Graeber currently teaches social anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Below, Graeber discusses his latest book, the concept of debt in detail, and how his involvement in the anarchist movement sparked his interest in the history of debt.

Alex Bradshaw: Your latest book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, explores the origins of debt. What were some of the implications for communities and individuals when debt became a significant factor in people’s lives?

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The past century has been coined by scholars as “the century of genocide.” An estimated 50–60 million people have been killed in conflicts that can be classified as genocides. Many have observed that the development of the nation-state and the industrialization of killing has led to increased violence. However, few have examined the violent roots and effects of the processes that claim to prevent domination and promote peace. The United Nations, neglecting to address and act to resolve its own place in modern, rationalized violence, demonstrates its ignorance of power relations through the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.1 By authoritatively defining and ranking violence, the UN Convention, itself a product of 20th century bureaucratization, perpetuates and permits violence and reinforces the state-sovereignty that frequently effectuates crimes of genocide.

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What is the role of the cashier?What is the role of the cashier? Surely it is not that of the helper. The cashier is, at base, the low-level security guard. The cashier is the executor of arbitrary access guidelines. Her most basic job function is to ensure that if one attempts to access a thing without “possessing” a defined number of points (USD in my context) that one will meet violence (or the threat thereof) at the hands of the appropriate person. In order to mask the arbitrary and violent nature of the relationship between customer and cashier, the cashier must convince the customer (and himself) that his role is that of the helper.

What then is the difference between the cashier and the bureaucrat of the totalitarian state dispensing rations? I’d suggest that the primary difference is in form of the categorical “gun” held to each of their heads. With the latter it is concentrated: if she does not uphold the guidelines of access, she faces the literal gun of her supervisor. With the former it is diffuse: if he does not uphold the guidelines of access, he faces the gun, not of his supervisor, but of the police officer, or, in an even more dispersed form, the metaphorical gun that is the threat of homelessness and starvation.

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