EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionThe Left

The 24M Elections in Spain

A new era in the regime's crisis

The local and regional elections of last May 24th arrived four years after the great social upheaval symbolized by the 15M Movement and the Indignados. The starting point of a long and deepening political crisis, the 15M was both a moment of change and a genuine foundational event within the contemporary political and social history of the Spanish State. The popular mobilizations of May and June 2011 inaugurated a cycle of social struggle that translated during 2012 and 2013 into the so-called “citizenry tides” against cutbacks, particularly those regarding public health and education. Although they had few concrete victories, the “tides” witnessed the capabilities of popular resistance and its limits vis-à-vis austerity measures. …

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EssaysRaceRace/isms

Actually Essential Reading About the Confederacy

Understanding the historical context of the massacre in Charleston and the debate about the Confederate battle flag

The massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the subsequent debate about the Confederate battle flag have sent Americans scrambling for historical context. The shortlist of introductory readings on the Confederacy recommended by John Williams in the New York Times ArtsBeat, however, is an embarrassing catalog of dated scholarship that emphasizes the experiences and reflections of white elites. Histories of the lives of Confederate generals that date to the 1930s may have their virtues. The impact of the Civil War on the planter class is surely worth knowing. And no one ought to discount smart literary analyses of Harriet Beecher Stowe or Albion Tourgee. But scholarship that predates the Carter Administration and centers on a small segment of the slaveholding class hardly provides a starting point for understanding our current moment. …

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Arts & DesignEssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Can Architecture be Democratic?

The tension between The People and their places

Can architecture be democratic? Most people would readily agree that the built environment is bound to be political. Yet in the popular imagination the combination of “architecture” and “politics” tends to conjure up distinctly undemocratic figures: totalitarian leaders designing monumental edifices and avenues for eternity. And if authoritarians fancy themselves as architects, so a certain logic goes, architects often act like authoritarians: at best they might create something for the people, but not anything meaningfully seen as of the people and certainly not by the people. And yet there are ways of judging architecture and space to be more or less democratic — and, to some extent, practical strategies to render architecture (and also urban planning) democratic. These are bound to become ever more important in the twenty-first century, as our age is one of unprecedented urbanization and hence new planning and building challenges around the globe. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionSex & Gender

Ireland’s Victory for Marriage Equality

The birth of a new political imagination?

The Irish electorate’s recent resounding “yes” to the question of marriage equality for LGBT people (62% of the electorate, approximately 1.2 million, voted in favour the proposal) briefly turned the international spotlight on Ireland for reasons other than its imploding economic and banking system. Ireland is the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote. This is a significant achievement in and of itself, made all the more remarkable by the fact that it occurred in a country that did not decriminalise (male) homosexual activity until 1993 (after it was compelled to by the European Court of Human Rights), and which only legalised divorce in 1995 by the narrowest of margins. The Irish and international media were quick to proclaim the referendum result a victory for the forces of social liberalisation that put Ireland at the “vanguard of social change” and a defeat for the Catholic Church and its once dominant hegemonic position in Irish society. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Reflections on the Recent Elections in Turkey

The disintegration of majoritarianism through elections and social protest

During the summer of 2010, as I was strolling in Lower Manhattan with my 75-year-old mother, we came upon Professor Andrew Arato at a café. At the time, he was gaining quite a bit of notoriety in my home country of Turkey with his substantive and significant support to the old-guard elites in their battle against constitutional amendments proposed by the moderately Islamist, procapitalist ruling party, AKP (Justice and Development Party). …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionReligionThe Left

Religion, Essentialism, and Violence

Cherry picking on the left

There has been a contentious theme circulating around the Left-wing blogosphere for quite a while now, sharpened by the atrocities of ISIS and the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. The theme usually begins with the accusation that Islam as a religion is soft on violence, a consequence of its vehement rejection of Enlightenment values. The argument continues: while Islam may not be unique among monotheisms in its endorsement of violent struggle against heretics, infidels, and Western liberal-democratic hegemony, the idea of jihad reveals that it is uniquely serious about it. …

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EssaysRaceRace/ismsReligionThe Left

Charlie Hebdo and the Appeal for French Context

White & Black Analytics

The attacks on the offices of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January 2015, during which fourteen people were killed, pose a specific problem for the white left. The call to contextualize Charlie Hebdo foregrounded a structurally white French context, in which people of colour and Muslims could be included only as loyal subjects of the Republic. The translations of France offered by French and Francophile leftists for their “Anglo-American” interlocutors, while revealing of the French dynamics of secularism, universalism, and coloniality, marginalised those “who could not be Charlie.” Instead, to use Barnor Hesse’s formulation, a “white analytics” was advanced that denied the centrality of the “black analytics” crucial for a complete understanding of both historical and contemporary French conflicts around race and religion (Hesse 2014). “Context,” therefore, stand in for racial neutrality: in reality, an impossibility. …

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