Can resistance be represented? Should resistance be represented? Is it not rather the case that resistance – political, economic, cultural, ecological, social – is already represented: exposed and overexposed in the generalized architecture of a mediated warfare for informational value in the precise sense of the term: shock coefficients? As the attention economy's wetwares struggle to keep up with the flattened and DDOS'd traffic jams on the world's data highways, do Cecil the lion and #Shellno become one in the 24/7/365 reality of televised telestasis?
On the other hand, perhaps representation is resistance? Do not Sandra Bland and Eric Garner and Natasha McKenna and Trayvon Martin remind us that to resist is to represent oneself, to speak with one's voice, to transmit one's suffering? Yet, to assume so is to assume a very narrow view of representation, too: do body cameras and television cameras speak the neutral truth, or does not the Center for Medical Progress remind us that video footage is as much subject to manipulation as statistical data has always been? #Blacklivesmatter may be more or less close to the root of the problem than #Alllivesmatter, yet both are already apprised and expropriated by the categories in which resistance and suffering and resilience are transposed to the discrete elements the media transfers in various formats. Perhaps this is the price to be paid for breaking down telestasis, if ever so momentarily.
Perhaps, however, it is false to think of this in prices being paid. An uncritical media positivism in which representation engenders resistance may be as ill-advised as the opposite stance that resistance is futile in the age of mediated implosion. Far from retreating to the assumption, once again, that representation is a mere neutral arbiter of truth, one must perhaps nevertheless represent to resist and resist to represent, represent resistance and resist representation. If contemporary lifeworlds are mediated and mediation is the contemporary lifeworld, 24/7/365 representation is perhaps simply an irreducible reality. The notion of representing resistance, an active notion rather than one of passive consumption, may then allow the political to return without short-circuiting it to millenarian immediatism. What is at stake, then, is not so much the representation of resistance in a passive sense of reception, but an active politics of representing resistance.
The authors assembled in this issue of SPECTRA emphasize precisely this active, resilient role of representing resistance. In her title image Safe Zone as well as her reflections on her work, Sachi Stovall engages the duality of exposure: visibility as vulnerability goes hand in hand with visibility as empowerment. Representation is resistance; resistance is representation. In her reflection, in turn, Melissa Schwartz reminds us that resistance is always physical as well as emotional, and that mental and intellectual resistance tap into reservoirs they cannot control and whose resilience is beyond the power of words – represented, therefore, in an aesthetics whose resistant quality is at the core of its mode of representation.
SPECTRA is honored to feature in this issue an interview with Dr. Wendy Brown. This interview was conducted by Jordan Laney and Anthony Szczurek in March 2015, prior to Dr. Brown's lecture "Undoing Democracy: Neoliberalism and Political Life" in the Women's Forum at Roanoke College. As global neoliberalism seemingly remains triumphant, it is imperative to represent again and again that its ever-changing and seemingly insurmountable reality meets equally ever-changing resistance. Within and against practices of neoliberal power, Dr. Brown's critical intervention uncovers "what’s invisible or disavowed or unspoken or un-emancipatory in whatever practice or whatever set of powers [Dr. Brown is] looking at."
One such site of which Dr. Brown alerts us is the university itself in its North American as in its global incarnations. In many ways, the university occupies a peculiar place with regard to resistance: nominally devoted to enlightened or even emancipatory thought, it is also focal point of the economization, neoliberalization, and neutralization of knowledge. Moreover, it is a workplace – site of production, site of assessment, to be sure, but also site of cultural resistance. As such, it is perhaps particularly evident here what David Watkins' article Republicanism at work: strategies for supporting resistance to domination in the workplace diagnoses for neoliberal and late capitalist workplaces in general: an accelerated omnipresence of "the experience of uncertainty or 'precarity' amongst the workforce." Seen through a republican rather than a classically liberal lens, the inability of individualism to serve as a site of resistance to workplace domination becomes evident here (as in Amiel Bernal's article in this issue). Perhaps, Watkins concludes, more democratically constituted workplaces can serve as sites of resistance to hegemonic projects of accelerated neoliberal exploitation, human capital optimization, and not least the basic physical exhaustion of citizens subjected to increasingly precarious wage labor.
At the often underappreciated physical level, an ethos of exhaustion pervades capitalist society: labor power must be exerted; subjects must be formed and reformed; bodies must be (re)aligned and controlled. The order to which bodies are subjected when they are subjectified as a power laboring to capacity and non-laboring to incapacity is an order of sacrifice: a carnivorous order devouring what comes before it and what is subjected to it. Katherine Young's article Beastly Politics: Derrida, Animals, and the Political Economy of Meat reads Derrida and Hobbes, Plato and Machiavelli to show that the teeth devouring animals, animaux and animots are at the core of the body politic. Yet, Young asserts, if carnophallogocentrism is indeed the privileged site of the state administering itself against civil society, the political economy of meat, its workplaces of sacrifices, may become yet another site of resistance to neoliberal statehood.
Asserting, on the other hand, that civil society by itself and left to its own devices in a spectacular charade of libertarian pipe dreams can resist the state, perhaps even by its own means, is equally fallacious. Andrew Barber's Bitcoin and the philosophy of money: evaluating the commodity status of digital currencies shows that the hopes attached to Bitcoin and other manifestations of cyberpunk scrips may be premature. To be sure, Bitcoin has the potential to engender cultural solidarity based on the idea of subjecting the state to the Lulz of currency trolls – or, in a more positive light, based on the idea of Temporary Autonomous Zones hoping, one day, to become permanent. Yet, one may conjecture, the trolls in question are already here: the currency markets. Moreover, the state always reasserts itself; in this case, by subjecting Bitcoin to commodity status and tax laws.
Yet, communities of resistance do exist and do thrive in culturally mediated solidarity. What can they do to resist? How can they represent resistance and represent themselves as resistant? In Rachael Kennedy's Spaces of Suppression, Resistance; Strategies of Cohesion, Momentum, we encounter the sites and resources of resistance of which Dr. Brown had made us aware in yet another light. Between the burning barricades and shut-down intersections of what is commonly seen as political activism on the one hand, and the weapons of the weak of everyday resistance on the other hand, this article explores case studies of social movements to show a middle ground. Finding cohesion and momentum, Kennedy maintains, requires as much deliberate strategy as what is commonly said to be resistance: building solidarity, identifying fault lines, and sustaining tactics of emotional allegiance.
This bottom-up labor is not limited to the offline existence of the 'real world.' On the contrary: it often transcends the binary of representation and resistance altogether. Nevertheless, the elements by which representation comes to be constituted as resistance – the platforms and nodes of hacktivist telecommunication – are themselves embedded in social relations which are as condusive to resistance as reproductive to the very fault lines to be resisted. In her article We are all anonymous: beyond hacktivist stereotypes, Emma Stamm analyses the two-faced reality of hacktivism. Who is hacking the peer2peer networks' interfaces? Are the inter-faces of peers networking with peers all of the same kind? By whom and to what end is 'the hacker' represented? Why are mainstream media depictions exploited for the lulz, and who is laughing when nerd cultures and Gamergates perpetuate casual racism and sexism?
Online or offline, in cultural cohesion or social movement, as digital signature or fleshed-out wetware, as labor power or intellectual entrepreneur, the individual is project and subject, node and focus of representation and appropriation, of reductionism and resistance. Amiel Bernal intervenes in this discourse, arguing that one must see the Individual as Ideology: moral praise and blame, individual courage and acquiescence are equally problematic categories when representing the social, political, ethical, and cultural manifestations of resistance. Yet, Bernal also cautions against simply turning one's back to individualism: in the fiercest rejections of individualism, one finds the all too familiar face of individuality reappearing, refusing to vanish like faces drawn on shorelines.
Concluding with a reflection on Philopoiesis, Resistance, and Resilience, a version of his remarks made as keynote at the 2015 ASPECT Graduate Conference, Samson Opondo engages a multiplicity of philosophical and literary sources to show sites of resistance in colonial and ethnological representations. Philopoiesis, a zone of indistinction between philosophy and literature – modes of representation, modes of resistance against representation – shows what lurks in the shadows of the margins of Euro-American phlosophy and literature: the monster, the hybrid, the arriving stranger, the resilient resistance of never-assimilated remainders in representation and against representation.
Yet, it is time to close this introduction; the authors assembled in this issue need no representation and will rightfully resist representation. The forum is theirs to represent resistance and resist representation –
Blacksburg, August 30th, 2015