Feminist studies journal retracts paper after post-acceptance editing dispute
Thobani, of the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of British Columbia, became a figure of some international repute for statements in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks that were highly critical of the United States and its response to the assaults and of the West in general:
This new fight, this new war against terrorism, that is being launched, it’s very old. And it is a very old fight of the West against the rest. Consider the language which is being used. Calling the perpetrators evil-doers, irrational, calling them the forces of darkness, uncivilized, intent on destroying civilization, intent on destroying democracy That hate freedom we are told. Every person of colour, and I would want to say also every Aboriginal person, will recognize that language. The language of us letting civilization representing the forces of darkness, this language is rooted in the colonial legacy. It was used to justify our colonization by Europe …
… But the people, the American nation that Bush is invoking, is a people which is bloodthirsty, vengeful, and calling for blood. They don’t care whose blood it is, they want blood. And that has to be confronted. We cannot keep calling this an understandable response. We cannot say yes, we understand that this is how people would respond because of the attacks. We have to stop condoning it and creating a climate of acceptability for this kind of response. We have to call it for what it is: Bloodthirsty vengeance.
The paper in question, “Empire, Bare Life and the Constitution of Whiteness: Sovereignty in the Age of Terror,” appeared in March 2012. But according to the notice:
This article is not available because the Editorial Board made substantive changes to the text after communicating its acceptance of the paper to the author and the author has withdrawn the paper rather than accept those changes.
At first glance, there seems to be something appropriate in Thobani’s principled move to pull the plug on her article rather than bend to edits she didn’t see before publication. The paper has her name on it, after all. But we don’t have any details other than what’s in the notice, so we’ve reached out to Thobani and the editorial staff of the FLS for more on this one and will update the post if we hear back.
As for the paper, it’s not available anymore. But here’s the abstract:
The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, like the bombings of Pakistan, Yemen and Libya have highlighted the complex nature of sovereignty within the international juridical order. Invasions and occupations—widely treated by major Western intellectual traditions in the late twentieth century as phenomena of a colonial order safely consigned to the past—emerged as central to global politics in the early twenty-first century. This paper examines what its ‘War on Terror’ reveals about the nature of sovereignty in the new millennium by way of engagement with two theories of sovereignty—one post-structuralist, the other (neo)marxist—that have become highly influential. In Homo Sacer , Giorgio Agamben theorizes sovereign power in Western politics to argue that the ‘state of exception’ that enables the sovereign’s capture of ‘bare life’ has now become the rule. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri make the case in Empire that the global economic order has transcended twentieth century forms of imperialism characterized by the nation-state system. The emergent order—‘Empire’—instead deploys ‘postmodern’ forms of decentralized power and hybrid forms of subjectivity. I argue neither Homo Sacer nor Empire are up to the task of explicating post/modern sovereignty as they do not engage with its central problematic, namely its racial logic of power. Demonstrating that race remains central to the constitution of sovereignty, both in the Nazi ‘camp’ (in the limit figure of the Musselman) and ‘empire’ (through invasions and occupations), I argue that contemporary struggles for emancipation need to address the centrality of the racial logic of power. To do otherwise is to reproduce coloniality and the recuperation of whiteness-as-sovereign power.
Update, 6:15 p.m. Eastern, 9/18/12: Thobani responded to our email:
As I am still in the process of getting this article published in its entirety, I would prefer to wait until then before I discuss this matter.
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