From Reimagining Communities to Communities Reimagining

By Laura Zuber

It is the 13th of April 2021 and the the call for writing a blog article on ‘Reimagining Communities’ for this year’s Security Studies conference reaches me in a vulnerable moment in my research process: six months into the PhD, I made the decision to change topic. Roughly, my original plan consisted of comparing the UK’s crisis management during Covid-19 and the Second World War. Naturally, the question I would receive from many a person coming across my research would be: “Why these two?” Concretely, “What is your understanding of crisis that made you come up with comparing these two completely different phenomena?” The truth is, although I was mostly able to provide a satisfactory answer to those asking, I had to quietly confess that I was not able to provide a satisfactory answer to myself, to the point that the molehill became a mountain that blocked from my sight the further path of the project. 

A thought-provoking question. What do I mean by ‘crisis’? What does ‘crisis’ mean in general? This question came accompanied by a latent sense of shame, given that the word was prominently featured in my project title. Adding to this feeling, I did what most of us on the privileged side of the digital divide do in moments of fundamental ontological questionings of the world around us: I googled. Eventually, after hours of research, browsing through academic and various other sources, I still did not exactly know what, when and how a ‘crisis’ is, but I knew one thing: that it is tricky to figure out for others, too. 

Thereby, we encounter this notion in every other news article, attached to words such as health, climate, migration, food, housing, or the economy. Does the meaning of ‘crisis’ impose itself so naturally? “That, now that one is a sound crisis! No no, that one, not the other, the other one is just a huge problem.” Or is its inflationary use rather a matter of quantity than quality? “Hah, we simply have too many of them, there you go, Ma’am, catch!”

Even though the latter might be sadly true, I would like to reflect on the first aspect, specifically on the political implications of using this notion unquestioningly. My aim is not to advocate for a narrow definition of the word – on the contrary. Rather, I would like to invite the reader to a broader reflection on the dangers and potentials of handling a remarkably adaptable and ontologically hollow notion such as ‘crisis’; an excercise that might prove useful for the next time we stumble across this little word in the newspaper. 

To do this, I need to offer an outline of a much lesser known crisis phenomenon: Coming from feminist theory, my current research explores what is known, whithin feminist scholarship, as the crisis of reproduction. (Yes, that suspicious word again!) That is the increasing difficulty to engage in physical, mental, and emotional life-making and -sustaining activities within the microcosm of the everydays; from cooking, eating, sleeping, accessing potable water, to teaching, and giving and receiving care and love – activities that sustain ourselves and the extended community and kinship ties around us. According to Marxist and socialist feminists, the ultimate goal of these reproductive activities is to renew, day-to-day and generationally, the labour power we need to sell on the market to gain access to the finacial means to – again – reproduce ourselves and the capitalist modality. Life-making for profit-making. If this is part of the deal, why is the reproductive sphere in crisis, then? Ought it not be the most secure of all? 

Seen through a critical lens, capitalism, especially in its neoliberalised form, reveals itself as a cosmology, a value-system that acts with a parasitic, that is an expansive and extractive relationality on those within its reach, with the goal of infinite accumulation of profit. This extractive relationality furthermore has an explicitely colonial and heteronormative patriarchal quality, which shines light on why the global reproductive sphere is disproportionally made up by precarious Women and people of Colour – as opposed to the primary beneficiaries of this system. In order to sustain itself, capitalism then needs to extract more and more – theoretically infinitely more – from human (and other-than-human) regenerative life-forces that are by nature finite. Capitalism’s progressive eating itself through finite life-forces – unevenly across lines of inequality – is increasingly palpable even in Western heteronormative societies. And suddenly, the crisis of reproduction is everywhere and nowehere. 

The crisis of reproduction is everywhere, because it hides at the core of many of the crises we read and hear about in many a news article, talk and conference: the crises of climate, migration, debt, food or housing, not to speak of the manifold struggles brought about by the pandemic. The crisis of reproduction is seen nowhere, because the reproductive sphere and its racialised, gendered and precarious demography is produced as invisible. Because acknowledging the global reproductive crisis would mean declaring a (‘a’ – not ‘in’) crisis the current political-economic order, including the very colonial and heteronormative patriarchal relationships it is built upon and that permeate and uphold the insititutional grid of society. It would mean declaring a crisis competitive, hierarchical and cumulative systems of power and the way we organise life in them. It would mean for society to enter into a state of ontological insecurity.  

Turns out, the question what is deemed to be a crisis is not a trivial one. The way this word is filled with meaning has a strategic function for the ontological security of societal and global structures protecting capitalist – including colonial and patriarchal – modalities. It is also of utmost importance for the livelihood of everyone living in and with them day-by-day. The question what a crisis is and the dominant value-system in which this question is subsequently interpreted have concrete political implications as to which life-threatening situations will be problematised or normalised, and thus whose lives will be protected or sacrificed. Moreover, the question of who is ontologically constructed as being, and the subsequent affirmation of who is valued in the dominant value-system, will have concrete political implications as to when a situation is declared or taken seriously as a crisis; depending on whose lives are in danger.

“But during the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a revaluation of (white and Western) women’s reproductive activities, how does that fit in?”, some might wonder. While we cannot know with certainty what this revaluation might bring, feminist scholar Smriti Rao offers a rather disheartening outlook:

The terrible pandemic sweeping the globe caused capitalist accumulation to be temporarily suspended in order to address the threat to the production and maintenance of life posed by the virus. One could sense the impatience generated by this unprecedented move in an economic system that is designed to reverse that order of priorities. The suspension did not last long, precisely because of how poorly it fits our current political economy. From a feminist political economy perspective, this is a further reminder of the fundamental contradiction between a capitalist system that prioritizes profits, and a feminist ethic that prioritizes life-making or social reproduction. (Rao, 2021, p.18)

With this background, what should we reimagine communities for, given that they are the primary site of reproduction, whose struggle seems to be a lost case? To try to reproduce our labour-power better, until the ‘dragon’, as Audre Lorde named it, eventually devours itself and us? 

If the community in capitalist societies is, as Silvia Federici explains, essentially an assembly line that (re)produces workers and labour-power, then reimagining communities would mean: reimagining communities that produce something beyond that. The world we live in is materialised cosmology – it is nothing but materialised cosmology. Before we feed any Lorde’ian dragon with our labour power, we must feed that dragon with our collective belief  in it. Collective belief is the true source of ontological security. 

The micro-level of community, then, is the primordial site where the conditions of possibility for the world we live in – in all its ontological, structural and cultural facets – is produced. This is what ‘reproductive activities’ ultimately are about: they are world-making activities that set the stage for any cosmology to materially unfold.  Understanding the community as a site of world-creation shines light on why capital accumulation happens through a regime “in which all life forms are severed from the interdependence that nurtures life-making” (Hennessy, 2020, p. 5): severed, dismembered and alienated (or simply absent) communities cannot realise their full life-making, meaning world-making potential beyond the mere reproduction of labour power. The ontological threat is minimised. The community is stripped from its creative power that is free to be transfered to privileged political, economic and financial elites sitting on top of often violent hierarchies. These then appear as the only legitimate agents to endow such crucial notions as ‘crisis’ with meaning. Can we reimagine communities that are able to realise their full hidden potential? 

An investigation into the etymology of the word ‘solidarity’ reveals that the french word solidarité designates a community of mutual responsibility, and itself stems from the words solidaire, meaning ‘interdependent’ and solide, meaning ‘solid’. Can solidarity be the key to restore solid and interdependent community ties? If yes, solidarity and interdependence need to be based on a sense of mutual responsibility – not on coercive or exploitative relationships. As decolonial philosopher Enrique Dussel tells us, respect and responsibility for the Other is a precondition for reimagining and remaking: “it is an almost metaphysical activity. […] It is the metaphysical anteriority of the new or future order. It is anteriority to ontological openness to the world; it makes it possible; it is its real a priori” (1985, p. 60, italics in original). Solidarity, interdependence and mutual responsibility are reflections of each other. Reimagining communities as sites of rooted and actualised solidarity is the precondition for them to engage in the task that is theirs only: to reimagine a world – or worlds – we want to live in. Perhaps it is due to the crisis of reproduction that images of these worlds-that-could-be are haunting so many of us. I see the call for reimagining communities as the call for cultivating solid ‘haunting grounds’ for them. 

And here I am asking you, the reader of these lines: How do you feel? If everything and nothing can be a crisis, then what do you think is one? When did you have your last chat on ‘God and the world’, your pain, hopes and anger within a safe and nurturing community setting? Where do you wish for more of these settings, maybe in institutional and work contexts where ‘they do not belong’? Why don’t they belong? What could be done to challenge that? You don’t have time and energy for that? Why, where do they go? What is making you sick? What could be done to challenge that?

Reimagining communities is a security issue. In a crisis-ridden and self-devouring world, the community offers security of the most meaningful kind. Especially Indigenous, Black and postcolonial knowledges speak of this reality. 

For my part, I wish that one day, when we are haunted by fundamental ontological questionings of the world around us, instead of turning to google, we can turn to healthy, thriving, nurturing and sustainable communities for the knowledge and strenght to provide ourselves with aswers. And in case I should be  deemed mad for harbouring such heretic thoughts, I leave here the words of Black domestic servant Hanna Nelson: “I have grown to womanhood in a world where the saner you are, the madder you are made to appear.”

Laura Zuber (she/her) is a doctoral researcher at the War Studies Department of King’s College London. Her thesis explores the interrelation between the neoliberal crisis philosophy and the global crisis of reproduction. She furthermore researches into alternative philosophies and approaches to the governance of the reproductive sphere and its crises coming from social justice collectives. 

This blog entry excerpts ideas and phrases from an unpublished doctoral thesis; please do reach out to the author via laura.zuber@kcl.ac.uk if you wish to reproduce or cite.

Bibliography

Beier, F. (2018). Marxist Perspectives on the Global Enclosures of Social Reproduction. TripleC16(2), 546–561.

Bhattacharya, T. (2017). What is Social Reproduction Theory? Retrieved May 03, 2021 from http://www.tithibhattacharya.net/social-reproduction-theory

Bhattacharya, T., & Vogel, L. (eds.) (2017). Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression. London: Pluto Press.

Dussel, E. D. (1985). Philosophy of Liberation. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.

Federici, S., & Jones, C. (2020). Silvia Federici and Campbell Jones: Counterplanning in the Crisis of Social Reproduction. South Atlantic Quarterly199(1), 153–165.

Fraser, N. (2014). Behind Marx’s Hidden Abode: For an Expanded Conception of Capitalism. New Left Review, (86), 55–72.

Fraser, N. (2016). Contradictions of Capital and Care. New Left Review, (100), 99–117.

Grosfoguel, R. (2014). Epistemic Racism/Sexism, Westernized Universities and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century. Tabula Rasa19, 31–58.

Gunn Allen, P. (1986). Who is Your Mother? Red Roots of White Feminism. Retrieved February 17, 2021 from https://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/allenredrootsofwhitefeminism.html

Harman, S. (2021). Threat not Solution: Gender, Global Health Security and Covid-19. International Affairs00(0), 1–23.

Hennessy, R. (2020). Toward an Ecology of Life-making: The Re-membering of Meridel Le Sueur. CLCWeb: Comparative Literature And Culture22(2).

hooks, b. (1984). Feminist Theory from Margin to Center. Boston, MA: South End Press.

Lorde, A. (2007). Sister outsider: Essays and Speeches. Berkeley, Calif.: Crossing Press.

Lugones, M. (2010). Toward a Decolonial Feminism. Hypatia25(4), 742–759.

Maldonado-Torres, N. (2007). On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept. Cultural Studies21(2–3), 240–270.

Moore, J. W. (2015). Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. London: Verso.

Online Etymology Dictionary. Solidarity. Retrieved May 03, 2021 from https://www.etymonline.com/word/solidarity

Rao, S. (2021). Beyond the Coronavirus: Understanding Crises of Social Reproduction. Global Labour Journal12(1).

Sauer, B., & Wöhl, S. (2011). Feminist Perspectives on the Internationalization of the State. Antipode43(1), 108–128.

For the quote by Hanna Nelson see Nakano Glenn, E. (1992). From Servitude to Service Work. Historical Continuities in the Racial Division of Paid Reproductive Labor. Signs18(1), 1–43.

Intelligence and Oversight in British Parliamentary Records

by Jan Camenzind Broomby

For the purposes of my King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship I assisted both Professor Claudia Aradau (KCL War Studies) and Professor Tobias Blanke (KCL Digital Humanities) in their research on intelligence and oversight in the UK parliamentary archives, with a focus on how questions of accountability and scrutiny have been raised in regard to the British intelligence activities. I was primarily tasked with cleaning the data that had been compiled thus far and conducting archival research to ensure that said data was relevant and correct. This involved harmonising the names of entities (the data that had been collected previously) under new names, discarding irrelevant entities, adding latitudes/longitudes for entities that referred to locations, and Wikipedia articles for entities that referred to events. This blog will discuss the methodology I adopted during my work and for the sake of clarity I have split this into several segments, each of which outlines a challenge that I encountered, and a solution I developed thereto. 

How to begin?

I began by working on cleaning the data in the smallest Excel file that had been sent to me. This ensured that any mistakes I might make would be contained to a smaller, more manageable Excel file and would thus be easier to rectify. It also ensured that the task appeared less daunting and enabled me to get to grips with what I was doing without being overwhelmed. From the sheer size of the data that I was dealing with, I knew that I would have to automate a portion of the work in order to ensure that I was able to work as efficiently as possible. I therefore began looking into the different Excel commands that might be of benefit to me and discovered that the IFS command could be used to automatically fill cells with the harmonised names that I had chosen. Using this command, I set about populating the ‘Harmonised’ column with the harmonised names for each entity. Having done this I wrote another IFS command that filled another column with relevant Wikipedia articles depending on the harmonised name that the article was to refer to. Given the small size of this document I was able to write an IFS command that included all unique entities. This sped the progress of work up considerably.

World War or Wars?

One issue I stumbled across early on was the decision of how to harmonise certain entities. This problem was particularly prevalent when I came across several entities that referred generally to ‘World Wars’. Unsure of what to do, I emailed my supervisors and was advised that I could either harmonise this entity under a ‘World Wars’ name or create two separate rows for both World War I & II. Having realised that there was no Wikipedia article for ‘World Wars’, and that whenever a speech referenced ‘World Wars’, they also referred to World War I & II separately, I decided I would create new entries for both World War I & II whenever I came across the entity ‘World Wars’. I adopted the same solution for any other such issues I encountered, searching first to see whether a relevant Wikipedia article could be found, and secondly determining whether the entity could be split into smaller sub-events.

Automating Efficiently?

Having finished the file that focused on events, I moved onto the file that dealt with locations. I noted that this file was far larger and would therefore require more automation to finish. I gave a cursory glance to the whole dataset and noted down which entities seemed to be cropping up the most. I took this list and, using the IFS command, automated the harmonisation of these entities. While this was a step in the right direction, I nevertheless noticed that there were several entities that came up frequently that I had failed to make note of when I first looked through the document, these therefore had to be harmonised manually which took longer than it otherwise might have done. 

Constituency or location?

The next issue I ran into was that a large portion of the locations that were included as entities were actually references to members of Parliament (who are often referred to by their constituency, rather than their names). These were unwanted as they generally did not refer to relevant locations, however the difficulty was that I could not be sure whether or not to discard the entity without checking each one within the Hansard archive.

I noticed also that the algorithm, when making reference to an MP, would often include their City, followed by one of the four cardinal compass directions (North, East, South, or West). The honourable member for Sunderland, South was, for example, often represented on the Excel sheet with one ‘Sunderland’ entity, and one ‘South’ entity following it. Given that there was a low chance that the South of Sunderland would be relevant to a GCHQ debate, and given that people colloquially tend to refer to areas with the compass direction first (one might say ‘the South of Sunderland’), rather than afterwards (one would not say ‘Sunderland, South’), I could thus remove pairs of entities that I knew followed this pattern of town, cardinal direction. 

To read or not to read? 

I then set about manually cleaning the remaining data but happened upon a further problem. When I went to check the Hansard archives to determine what was being referred to in the entities, I was often confronted with hundreds of different mentions of the entity. The entity might for example be listed as ‘West’ but upon searching within the Hansard archive I would find that ‘West’ had been referred to in the context of West Berlin, West Germany, The West, West Wales etc. and I could never be sure which of these ‘West’s was the one that should be recorded. The issue was that I had been checking the whole Hansard archive of each date, which meant that far more irrelevant results showed up.

I emailed my supervisors and they explained that the programme that had been used to extract entities from the Hansard archive material had only looked for locations, events and organisations in speeches that mentioned GCHQ, as well as 2/3 speeches before and after. This meant that I did not have to look through the entire Hansard archive. My supervisors also sent me a new filed named ‘gchq_speeches’. This massively sped up the process of manually checking entities as it allowed me to search within the gchq_speeches file, rather than searching on the Hansard archives website.

Final Automation:

I finally moved on to the second location file. This was much larger than the two files I had been working on so far. It thus required more automation to ensure that I could get the work done on time. I knew that it made sense to automate the harmonisation of entities that appeared most frequently, but I had yet to figure out how I could determine which entities appeared the most. While I could have used Excel’s COUNTIF function, this would have involved me manually inputting each unique entity to see how many times it appeared and would thus not have saved me as much time. 

I decided instead to use an online word occurrence tool. I quickly realised, however, that this tool counted each word separately. This caused an issue as many of the entities in my Excel file contained multiple words within one cell. I therefore found a different tool that would allow me to remove the spaces between the words in each cell. I could then take the output from the space removal tool and input that to the word frequency tool, which generated a list of the entities that most frequently came up in the file. 

This list of the most frequent words allowed me to automate the harmonisation of entities using the IFS command in Excel more efficiently than I had been doing before. I still, however, was limited by the fact that Excel only allows 125 tests within one excel command in a cell. This meant that I was only able to automate the first 125 unique entities. However, this was by far the most efficient way of cleaning the data, and it enabled me to sort through over 5,000 data points considerably faster than I otherwise would have done.

Conclusion:

As is evident from this piece it took me several iterations and adaptions to reach a point where I was satisfied with my workflow. However, having finished my undergraduate fellowship, I am aware that there are still numerous areas that could still be improved upon. I suppose that there are several things I have learned from this experience. It has borne testament to the value of trial and error, persistence, and to the fact that, as my supervisor Professor Blanke pointed out to me, ‘most knowledge is serendipitous in its origins to a degree’. Challenges should thus not be seen as an immovable obstacle, but as an opportunity to learn, and adapting and overcoming these challenges is an important part of learning and of the research process. 

This article was written as part of the King’s Undergraduate Research fellowship held in the context of the GUARDINT project, which is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Writing the Self, Writing as Care

by Lucy Thomas

Like many others, I am sitting at a table that, a few months ago, was our kitchen table, but that I now understand as my desk. Clearing away others’ books, cups of water, bike locks and assorted personal effects, I settle into the chronically uncomfortable white plastic Ikea chair, trying to concentrate while housemates enjoy a long Bank Holiday weekend. I write from lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis, a time that has warped and exploded our understandings of ethics, community, solidarity, and care.

In the face of so much death, struggle, and grief, there are many things to write on. Writing about writing might not be the first thing that comes to mind; nor might the connection between writing and care. But I want to use this space to think through how writing differently and writing otherwise can be an act of care within wider contexts of violence.

Much academic writing is eerily impersonal: individuality is exorcised in pursuit of the fiction of objectivity. Scholarship in the academy is so often divorced from the researchers’ personal circumstances; presented as a smoothed-out, clean academic production with a highly sanitised sense of the ways in which one’s thinking, knowing and being develops over years of intensive study. Stripping academic scholarship of a sense of self can be seen as an act of purification, mimicking the natural sciences’ predilection for a controlled and decontaminated workplace, unpolluted by external disorder.

We can understand this impulse for purification in academic writing as deeply implicated in coloniality. By coloniality, I refer to a matrix of power, one intimately connected to the political realities of formal and direct systems of colonialism, but exceeding them. Coloniality operates as a cosmology; a dynamic that structures our understandings of the what, the why, and the how of the universe. It is an analytic of power that exists in the present—we do not talk of a ‘legacy’ of coloniality, but rather, of coloniality of power in the present. Coloniality has many expressions: a field of knowledge, economic expansion and exploitation, cultural subjugation and elimination, the imposition of raciality, and so on.

One such expression of coloniality is a commitment to scientific ways of knowing. The European Renaissance, blossoming in fourteenth-century Italy within a context of crisis for the Roman Catholic Church, saw intelligentsia and philosophers of the day emphasise reason and humanism. The so-called Age of Reason, a time of ‘Enlightenment’ and unshackling from the supposedly old, pre-modern, barbaric, and backward ways, and of triumph for science, empiricism, and rationalism, characterised Europe from the seventeenth century onward. At the same time, Western European conquistadores set sail for the ostensible ‘New World,’ conquering, colonising, terrorising, and murdering swathes of Indigenous and Native peoples. Anthropology was established as the tool for extracting and making articulable knowledges and lands of these ‘new’ people for reporting back to the metropole. Between ten and twelve million African people were brutally captured, bought, sold, and disposed of as commodities in the Transatlantic slave trade.

The intellectual transformation in Europe and its colonialism of Africa, America, and Asia, are fused together. Far from simply occurring at the same time, one configured the other. The belief that one can ostensibly stand outside of politics, dispassionately and unethically observing, measuring, studying, is predicated upon acts of epistemological, physical, and ecological extractivism. In other words, scientific ways of knowing flow from European coloniser, self-defined as the standard-bearer of humanity, as they encounter the Other; a knowable object, existing independently of the knowing subject. This knowable object—be it people or land—can be mined for knowledge, labour, and resources, then disposed of: an encounter based on what can be extracted. This expression of coloniality continues, fairly undisturbed, for over five hundred years, into today’s established standards of academic writing. We are compelled to write as if we can step outside of our own skins, and into the subjectivity of a ‘researcher,’ encountering and extracting data from the world around us objectively and impersonally.

What if we began by acknowledging the falsity of our encounter with the Other and the world? By recovering ourselves in the act and the process of writing? By experimenting with academic writing as acutely personal? As an act of resistance, of liberation, of solidarity, of care?

Narrative works are presentations of the imbrication between the writer and how they move through the world: collisions between and blends of intellectual challenges and experiences of selfhood. They emphasise the unstructured, imaginative and fantastical ways that we encounter and experience the world; inviting us to know ourselves and the universe in a distinctly anti-scientific and a distinctly authentic way. Embracing these ways of being, knowing, and writing the world can teach us so much more about the human—and political—experience than sterilised scientificity. These alternative ways of knowing and writing acknowledge the simple fact that we exist in symbiosis with the political, colonial, modern, violent world: one in which we cannot stand outside of and observe dispassionately, unethically or neutrally.

Ways of writing that move away from the scientific, then, are anti-colonial. They resist the colonial violence of objectivity and extractivism; instead foregrounding our embeddedness in the world around us. In recovering the self, one who cannot escape coloniality, through writing respects and acknowledges the deeply relational nature of reality: we exist in, and in relation to, this world, not outside of it. It privileges the authentic, unsanitised experience of being subjects of and in colonialism, modernity, politics, and violence.

Many Black, Black feminist/female, and Indigenous scholars and scholars of colour have written on the ways in which this colonial world privileges whiteness, and, in doing so, destroys Blackness. As Ruha Benjamin puts it, “Vampirically, white vitality feeds on black demise … [for example] the extraction of (re)productive slave labor to build the nation’s wealth […] in these ways and many more, white life and black death are inextricable.” For those peoples dehumanised and placed in constant proximity to death in the context of this colonial world, recovering the self is an act of care.

Writing in Feminist Review, Azeezat Johnson begins her response to the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2017, upon learning that her cancer had returned. Fear of illness, cancer and COVID-19, meant “finding a way to love my body and life whilst still fearing (and in some ways, mourning) a death that always feels right around the next corner.” Johnson writes that “our bodies are objectified by the state as a problem worth a quantifiable amount of care.” Such care privileges whiteness: one need only think of enslaved Africans “thrown, jumped, dumped overboard in Middle Passage,” condemned to the depths of the Atlantic (Sharpe 2016, 19), or that per capita COVID-19 deaths among Black Caribbean Britons are three times that of white people, to grasp what is at stake when we speak of an ethics and a politics of care.

In entreating us to craft “an ethics of care that centres those who are continuously forgotten once disaster strikes,” Johnson reflects on the process of personal writing as care. “Staying silent, staying immobile” on her struggle means “erasing the experiences of those that are further marginalised [which] does nothing but divide us from one another.” The crucial connection is the one between the personal and the planetary: caring for/writing the self in the context of fighting for justice and for liberation for oppressed peoples. Audre Lorde, the Black feminist poet, wrote that “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” In our colonial world, where the marginalised “were never meant to survive,” caring for oneself and one another where the state refuses to, or where state care is violent, is an act of resistance.

Writing otherwise, then, is liberatory; it stands in resistance and in solidarity; it cares. Christina Sharpe, in her stunning opening chapter of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, introduces her project with a gut-wrenching account of some of her family members’ deaths. Reflecting on the deaths at the hands of police, at the hands of another young man, at the hands of cancer, Sharpe “includes the personal here ‘to tell a story capable of engaging and countering the violence of abstraction.’” In confronting the deeply personal nature of colonial violence and slavery, and its afterlives, Sharpe calls on us to think of care “as a problem for thinking of and for Black non/being in the world,” and in doing so, think of care “laterally … in a different relation than that of the violence of the state.”

In recovering the self through writing, Sharpe and Johnson perform an act of care; they “tend to the living and the dying.” For those forced on the edge of being in this colonial world, writing for and of oneself and writing for and of one another’s lives, struggles, and deaths, is a form of liberation and resistance; an “act of political warfare.”

 

Lucy Thomas is a PhD candidate in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London as part of the ESRC-funded LISS Doctoral Training Partnership. She holds an MA in International Conflict Studies from King’s College London, and an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics, both with Distinction. She is currently a Research Associate with the Policy Institute at King’s.

This blog post excerpts ideas and phrases from an unpublished doctoral thesis; please do not reproduce or cite without the author’s permission.

 

Bibliography

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Johnson, A. (2020) ‘Covid-19 and Cancer: Following Audre Lorde,’ Feminist Review blog. Accessed: https://femrev.wordpress.com/2020/03/31/covid-19-and-cancer-following-audre-lorde/

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