EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

The Tragedy of the 2015 Turkish Elections

Examining the AKP victory

The November 2015 election brought a landslide victory to the Justice and Development Party (AKP), increasing its vote almost nine points in 5 months. This surprising comeback would be hard to explain in an ordinary situation where such drastic shifts in voting in a short time period would not be expected. However, it …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Russia’s Game in Syria

Security, geopolitics, and a balance of powers

On Wednesday September 30, the Russian Federation started a bombing campaign in Syria with one objective in mind: the stabilization of the country and the survival of Assad’s regime. This action is very relevant for many reasons, but among them is the fact that it is historical. This presents Russia’s first military action on a foreign country, a majority of whose …

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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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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionSex & Gender

Women in the Rulings of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights

Moving beyond the single story

After a long battle with the mainstream of human rights discourse and institutions dating from at least the era of the League of Nations, feminists organized in a transnational movement [1] have succeeded in placing women’s issues at the centre of human rights debates.

Here I want to take a step back from celebrating these achievements and ask: if women are now part of the transnational discourse on human rights, who are these women? How do transnational human rights institutions represent them? Or, put in other words, who is the female subject of transnational legal discourse and what gendered harms are made visible in this arena? …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Part 6

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Embodying the third

Returning to the beginning of this essay, I have tried to suggest how we might view the embodied rather than dissociated self state as part of the reconstruction of the third in the wake of trauma. In her discussion of the Gugaleto Seven case Gobodo-Madikizela (2013) described the interactions between the perpetrator and the victims’ mothers as becoming very intimate. Thus the mother of the slain sons spoke of feeling the pain in her womb — the women and the perpetrator spoke of being parents and son. In expressing his remorse to them, the perpetrator addressed them as his mothers. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Parts 4 and 5

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Witnessing as repair of the moral third

To imagine a way out of the binary of deserving and discarded requires envisioning a world governed by the third, in which our attachment to all beings as part of the whole is honored as real. That vision of social attachment is a condition of the ethical position of the third, and it is central to Ubuntu, the South African tradition that so deeply informed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As defined by Desmond Tutu, Ubuntu means: “A person is a person through other persons… ‘my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up in yours.’…a person with ubuntu …has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed” (Tutu, 1999, p. 31). Our humanity depends on reciprocal recognition of each other and of our ineluctable attachment. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Part 3

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Failed witnessing: The Drowned and the Saved

The pivotal function of the moral third in relation to collective trauma is constituted by the acknowledgment of violation by the others who serve as witness. At a social level this role is played by the eyes and voice of the world that watches and upholds what is lawful by expressing, at the least, condemnation and indignation over injustice and injury, trauma and agony endured by the victims. The suffering or death of the victims is thus dignified, their lives given value. Their lives are worthy of being mourned, as Butler (2004) termed it, they are grievable lives. In other words, they are not simply objects to be discarded. Given the state of media proliferation, victims the world over know whether their suffering is seen and regarded; they can ask in despair, Why is no one paying attention as we die here? …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Parts 1 and 2

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

In this paper I make an effort to blend with my theoretical perspective some of my experience traveling in many parts of the world to places where my colleagues are struggling with the effects of violence and collective trauma either in the present or its aftermath. In addition to psychoanalytic thinking I will bring some of my experience with dialogue in the Middle East to bear on these issues.[1] This represents an effort to show the possibilities for applying psychoanalytically derived concepts to social phenomena, and suggest ways in which recognition theory can be used to grasp deep psychological structures within both collective and individual processes. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRaceRace/isms

Reflections on Ferguson

I have spent much of my academic career researching and writing about the Civil Rights Movement. Today, I am heartbroken, and I believe my greatest heroes would be too — Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, William Monroe Trotter, Ida B. Wells, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King Jr., are all collectively turning in their graves. My heart breaks for America because it feels like the struggle, and sacrifice of countless civil rights activists have in part been futile. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRace

Cop Violence and the Order of Urban Terrorism

Immediately after Ferguson, MO cop Darren Wilson murdered unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, the city’s police mounted a show of militarized power that represented the rising tide of police-state terrorism in growing numbers of urban communities throughout the United States of America. Treating the community as a war zone, the cops occupied the streets, ostensibly to protect the city from the violence of black protestors. Rather, the militarized cop presence in the city of Ferguson only served to exacerbate community anger, outrage, and resentment. Young Brown’s parents, Leslie McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., were left to grieve for their son, who was left dead in the street for four hours. Since the murder of Michael Brown, killer cop Darren Wilson has not been seen in public, nor has he been charged with a crime; rather, he has been allowed to walk free and has gone into hiding. …

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