Session 5A: Creating the Political: [Everyday] Politics & Resistance

Session 5A

Creating the Political: [Everyday] Politics & Resistance
4.22.2017 | 10:55a-12:10p | Laurel Hall 108

By centering the experiences and interventions by communities facing marginalization, this session suggests that politics exists beyond the polls. Explorations in resistance – those that map onto bodies, media, or that which pops up in unconventional spaces – will function as jumping points for this discussion.

Moderator: Fred Lee, PhD (Assistant Professor – Political Science; UCONN)

Participant Abstracts

Katherine A Pérez Quiñones (Latina/o and Latin American Studies; UCONN)
Dissenting in Space: the streets and the politics of possibilities

The proposed paper argues for a defense of contestatory practices in spaces of transit, ‘on the streets’ in a general sense. It is in these spaces that ordinary struggles can be expressed and become problematized. Non-institutionalized interventions (in the form of street art, graffiti, protest posters, etc.) open the possibilities for ‘the political’ to appear. Understanding ‘the political’ as that which is problematic to the status quo, these efforts have the potential to disrupt the ‘normality’ of the political order and therefore suggest different ways of doing and thinking our world.

Nithya Rajan (Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies; University of Minnesota)
Refugee Lip-Sewing Protests: Rethinking Refugee Subjectivity and Agency

Since World War I, refugees have been of interest to scholars from across disciplines. Today, refugees and refugee camps have become a part the geopolitical landscape of the world: a constant reminder of the precarity of national belonging, citizenship and state protection. The current refugee crisis is believed to be the worst since World War II. The refugees making their way to Europe have been depicted both as abject individuals in need of rescue and conniving labor migrants trying to take advantage of Europe’s generosity. I intervene in these narratives and representations through an analysis of refugee protests. These isolated acts of protests, often taking place in the borderlands between European nations have been interpreted alternatively as acts of desperation and as proof of refugees’ nefarious nature. I focus my analysis on a specific modality of protest is increasingly becoming common in refugee resistances- lip-sewing. The most compelling aspect of this protest is the absence of speech. These are not speech acts; no verbal demands are made. Drawing upon the works of various scholars such as Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler and Jacques Ranciére, I consider the implications of reading refugee lip sewing as an act of resistance. I argue that refugees use lip sewing as a performance of “exaggerated silence” to protest their silencing, while also making demands on state/s. I ask what it means for refugees who are outside citizenship and state protection to engage in these acts of protest. What demands are they making from the margins of belonging and to whom?

Noah Elias Habeeb (Urban & Environmental Policy and Planning; Tufts University)
“The Arabic Hour”: Archiving an Arab-American Counterpublic

This ongoing project comes out of participatory action research working with a community partner to produce a digital archive of an important Arab-American community television show, the “Arabic Hour”. Founded in 1981, the English language program seeks to politically empower the Arab-American population, while also reaching other residents of New England. The all volunteer staff has included founding members of the influential Arab-American activist group Association of Arab American University Graduates (AAUG), and guests on the program range from esteemed public intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and Ralph Nader; to dozens of local university professors, many local Arab-American high school and college students; to local activists, religious leaders, and business owners.
The Arabic Hour is an example of how Arab-American activists reacted to the anti-Arab racism and marginalization of the dominant culture, as well as the compulsory Zionism of media narratives, to form a subaltern counterpublic outside of the public sphere. In doing so, activists formed a material and conceptualized space in which they could tell their own narratives and produce their own media as a form of activism and resistance. This can be understood as a Foucauldian “insurrection of subjugated knowledge,” the production of untold narratives that have been “buried and disguised” or “located low down on the hierarchy.” The media that the Arabic Hour produced show various typically invisible articulations of Arabness as well as processes of identity formation including frequent contributions from Arab-American feminists and women writers; elucidating conversations between young Arab Americans that show the process of deassimilation; and examples of diasporic transnational identities formed “here” in relation to U.S. imperialism over “there.”
Key questions of the project surround the mission of the program and how is has changed over time; the political nature of cultural production as understood by those who involved in the Arabic Hour; the various forms of Arabness expressed by guests on the show, and the political implications these representations hold; if and how the Arabic Hour has helped the Arab-American community of New England build political power; and lessons the Arabic Hour may tell for using media and narrative creation in community organizing.