Deterritorialize, reterritorialize

Wednesday, 9th November 2016

From Nov. 9, 2016

Deterritorialize, reterritorialize. The molar won, or did the molecular? Depends on who’s seeing a line of flight. All I know is, the affect is ugly, but it is still affect. There’s a new social production. Those who celebrate this morning don’t see this as misogynist, racist, xenophobic, transphobic, demagogic – those who mourn, it’s pretty much all we see. And I mean “we” here. This day looks very dark indeed, and I don’t need Trump supporters telling me to chill out, everything will be fine, because the fact is, it won’t, and they don’t know the Kraken they’ve released. They are jubilant in an election in which the majority of the population voted for the Democrats. There is, in other words, not a mandate here, but of course, ownership of every lever of government by the Trumpites will look like a mandate.

I’m reminded of Steven Biko in the 1960s in South Africa. The assumption had been that meeting the brutality of the governing apartheid party meant having other parties that could play on the same field. And then, the other parties were outlawed. Biko (and others) saw that black intellectual life needed a different space, that the logic of political thought couldn’t just play out the way it always had. So there was organizing in universities, in townships, all over. And there was a new form of Black consciousness, in conversation with what was happening elsewhere in the world. That was the line of flight there, when there was little hope to be found. Biko and many others paid with their lives, but their new way of thinking politics lived on.

As with so many other things, I wish the US could learn more from African experience. The exceptionalism in this country does not serve it well, and at this point, we’ve doubled down on it. South Africa is not the US, and the path they took will not be the path taken here. It is just that this is a moment of deterritorialization. The path we were on a few days ago is no longer the path we are on now. We’ve traded the dangers and outrages we knew about, for new uncertain ones. We don’t know, we fear. Those fears are justified, and they come down hardest on those outside the white voting block that elected Trump. They will also come down hard on those within that block, when the white women who overwhelmingly voted him in find themselves objectified and ignored in new ways, when the hope for universal health care is gone and many desperate people become more desperate, when the women who spoke against abortion but then took their daughters on the sly to get one when needed, find that it gets harder to do that. Obama campaigned on hope, now Trump does too, but at least Obama had the will and skill to try to deliver on that promise, in the face of overwhelming right-wing opposition. Trump, with every wind at his back, will disappoint more completely on that promise than Obama did. But he’s white and male, so he’ll get a pass on his mediocrity.

Trump won not as an expression of Republican ideals (although certainly as an outgrowth of the logic of those ideals), nor even as a repudiation of Democrats, but as a rejection of brand-name politics. I get that impulse, even though it is a sickening mix of misogyny, racism, and all the rest. Republicans will not see this as a new day – they think they’ve won. Democrats might not see this as a new day, although they should. The “next in line” candidate was rejected by the electoral college, if not by the popular vote.

I’m going to go read more Biko. Fanon. Mbembe. Lots of others. Not to look for answers or a blueprint, but to think about what happens at moments of deterritorialization like this. And to be absolutely clear, or as clear as a white male Canadian living in the US can be, about what my female, and non-white, and gay, and lesbian, and trans, and disabled, and every other kind of othered friends are about to be facing.

Deterritorialize, reterritorialize.

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