- Centauri Dreams notes one source suggesting red dwarf stars may produce too little ultraviolet to spark life on their planets.
- Hornet Stories notes how LGBTQ Dreamers will be hit badly by the repeal of DACA.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money approves of Frederick Crews' critical takedown of Freud as a scientist.
- The LRB Blog looks at a new South Korean film examining the Gwangju massacre of 1980.
- The NYR Daily notes that China seems set to head into a new era of strict censorship, with calamitous results.
- The Planetary Society Blog considers the 40th anniversary of the Voyagers in the light of the Pale Blue Dot of Carl Sagan.
- The Signal reports that, for archivists' purposes, online newspaper sites are actually very poorly organized.
- At Spacing, Adam Bunch notes how Upper Canadian governor John Simcoe's abolition of slavery was not quite that.
- Window on Eurasia notes the continued official contortions around Circassian history in Russia.
- North Korea's nuclear threats seem not to have deterred tourists from Guam. Might they make the island's tourism? Travel and Leisure reports.
- As National Geographic observes, Yap--an island state of the Federated States of Micronesia--is increasingly caught between China and the US.
- Can Norfolk Island, as proposed, actually break from Australia and join New Zealand? Does New Zealand want it? The Guardian describes this movement.
- The Guardian notes that calls for recognition, even belated justice, by descendants of Melanesian slaves in Queensland are growing louder.
- Anthrodendum's Alex Golub talks about anthropologists of the 20th century who resisted fascism.
- Bad Astronomer Phil Plait notes a study suggesting the TRAPPIST-1 system might be substantially older than our own solar system.
- Centauri Dreams considers tidal locking as a factor relevant to Earth-like planetary environments.
- The Crux shows efforts to help the piping plover in its home on the dunes of the Great Lakes coast of Pennsylvania.
- Dead Things considers the evidence for the presence of modern humans in Sumatra 73 thousand years ago.
- Bruce Dorminey makes the case for placing a lunar base not on the poles, but rather in the material-rich nearside highlands.
- Far Outliers shares some evocative placenames from Japan, like Togakushi (‘door-hiding’) from ninja training spaces.
- Language Hat notes the exceptionally stylistically uneven Spanish translation of the Harry Potter series.
- Language Log thinks, among other things, modern technologies make language learning easier than ever before.
- The LRB Blog notes how claims to trace modern Greece directly to the Mycenaean era are used to justify ultranationalism.
- Marginal Revolution considers which countries are surrounded by enemies. (India rates poorly by this metric.)
- The Numerati's Stephen Baker considers how Confederate statues are products of recycling, like so much in our lives.
- The NYR Daily considers the unique importance of Thomas Jefferson, a man at once statesman and slaver.
- The Planetary Society Blog celebrated the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2 Sunday.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that, for a country fighting a drug war, Mexico spends astonishingly little on its police force.
- Drew Rowsome takes a look at classic John Wayne Western, The Train Robbers.
- Starts With A Bang's Ethan Siegel considers the critical role of NASA's Planetary Protection Officer.
- Strange Company notes the many legends surrounding the early 19th century US' Theodosia Burr.
- The Volokh Conspiracy hosts Ilya Somin' argument against world government, as something limiting of freedom. Thoughts?
- Window on Eurasia notes how Ukrainians are turning from Russia, becoming more foreign to their one-time partner.
- Scott Wheeler writes about past eminences of Toronto, people like Conn Smythe and Raymond Massey.
- Joanna Slater writes in The Globe and Mail about the symbolism of Confederate--and other--statuary in Richmond, former capital of the South.
- Reuters reports on a Vietnamese businessman abducted by his country from the streets of Berlin. Germany is unhappy.
- Jeremiah Ross argues at VICE that very high levels of tourism in New York City are displacing native-born residents.
- Looking to protests most recently in Barcelona, Elle Hunt in The Guardian looks at ways to make mass tourism more affordable for destinations.
- D-Brief shares rare video of beaked whales on the move.
- Dangerous Minds notes that someone has actually begun selling unauthorized action figures of Trump Administration figures like Bannon and Spencer.
- Language Log looks at a linguistic feature of Emma Watson's quote, her ending it with a preposition.
- Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen considers, originally for Bloomberg View, if Trump could be seen as a placebo for what ails America.
- The New APPS Blog takes a Marxist angle on the issue of big data, from the perspective of (among other things) primitive accumulation.
- The Search reports on the phenomenon of the Women's History Month Wikipedia edit-a-thon, aiming to literally increase the representation of notable women on Wikipedia.
- Towleroad notes the six men who will be stars of a new Fire Island reality television show.
- The Volokh Conspiracy finds some merit in Ben Carson's description of American slaves as immigrants.
- Window on Eurasia argues that Belarusians are beginning to mobilize against their government and suggests they are already making headway.
My thanks to Facebook's Conrad for linking to Adrija Roychowdhury's fantastic article in Indian Express looking at an overlooked element of African history in India, of Africans in positions of sovereign power.
“When your family has been ruling for hundreds of years, people still call you by the title of Nawab,” says Nawab Reza Khan, tenth Nawab of Sachin as he traces his family’s regal history. Reza Khan currently works as a lawyer and lives in the city of Sachin in Gujarat. He says his ancestors came from Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia in East Africa) as part of the forces of Babur. Eventually, they conquered the fort at Janjira and later occupied Sachin and ruled over their own kingdoms.
The Nawab of Sachin is a personified remnant of a glorious African past in India. Africans have, for centuries been a part of Indian society. While the slave trade from Africa to America and Europe is well documented, the eastward movement of African slaves to India has been left unexplored.
The systematic transportation of African slaves to India started with the Arabs and Ottomans and later by the Portuguese and the Dutch in the sixteenth -seventeenth centuries. Concrete evidence of African slavery is available from the twelfth-thrirteenth centuries, when a significant portion of the Indian subcontinent was being ruled by Muslims.
There is, however, a major difference between African slavery in America and Europe and that in India. There was far greater social mobility for Africans in India. In India, they rose along the social ladder to become nobles, rulers or merchants in their own capacities. “In Europe and America, Africans were brought in as slaves for plantation and industry labour. In India on the other hand, African slaves were brought in to serve as military power,” says Dr Suresh Kumar, Professor of African studies in Delhi University.
These were elite military slaves, who served purely political tasks for their owners. They were expensive slaves, valued for their physical strength. The elite status of the African slaves in India ensured that a number of them had access to political authority and secrets which they could make use of to become rulers in their own right, reigning over parts of India. They came to be known by the name of Siddis or Habshis (Ethiopians or Abyssinians). The term ‘Siddi’ is derived from North Africa, where it was used as a term of respect.
The Toronto Star's Alicja Siekierska reports on how two African-American migrants, escaped slaves, are now being honoured for their role in Toronto's history.
Nearly 200 years ago, shortly after fleeing slavery in the United States using the Underground Railroad, Lucie and Thornton Blackburn became leaders in their newly adopted community in Toronto.
They helped construct the historic Little Trinity Anglican Church on King St., and Thornton established Toronto’s first cab company — a red-and-yellow horse-drawn carriage that seated four.
On Wednesday, George Brown College will honour the story of the Blackburns, naming a conference centre at their student residence, The George, after the courageous couple and unveiling a mural designed and painted by George Brown students.
“This goes beyond the incredible story of a couple fleeing slavery to seek freedom in Canada, building incredible community partnerships and opening up the doors to blacks in Toronto,” said Nikki Clarke, the president of the Ontario Black History Society.
“Their story runs parallel to many people’s stories: taking refuge, seeking safety, and trying to start over in a new country. It resonates with many.”
Guilherme Leite Gonçalves and Sérgio Costa's Open Democracy essay looks at the changing functions of the port of Rio de Janeiro. In some of its broad outlines, the story that it tells is familiar.
The port district of Rio de Janeiro is one of the areas most affected by urban interventions connected to the August 2016 Olympics. Until very recently, business groups, politicians, investors and the mainstream media saw the port district as a devalued and degraded space, isolated from the rest of the city. In fact, the entire region had low market value and was of little interest for real estate investments, commercial transactions and services. Even the port itself was of little significance when compared to other Brazilian ports. Therefore, the region was located “outside” the process of capitalist accumulation.
This situation changed completely in November 2009. About a month after Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the Olympics, the Porto Maravilha project became public. This project catalyzed actions and economic, political and cultural expectations, restructuring the entire port district in order to create value.
Contrary to appearances, this phenomenon is not new. It is a new venue for a history that repeats itself. In its various stages, the port of Rio de Janeiro was marked by different landmarks of capitalist dynamic that both repelled and attracted spaces, processes and market relations, according to the needs of accumulation. This is a history marked by actors, forces and social pressures alternating in a continuous movement of commodification, decommodification and re-commodification – of people, goods and activities.
Since Rosa Luxemburg, in fact, Marxist political economists have realized that the accumulation of capital is not limited to a purely economic process between capitalists and workers in the production of surplus value. Seeing as only a relative portion of the surplus value can be appropriated in this internal transit, the system must make use of a non-capitalist “outside” to completely appropriate it.
Accordingly, the system makes use of explicit non-economic violence, including colonial or imperial policies, dispossessions, bloody legislation etc. There is, in other words, a repeated primitive accumulation throughout the history of capitalism. This repetition is required by capitalist expansion itself, which must commodify not yet commodified spaces in order to develop.
The various historical stages of this phenomenon are evident in the port district of Rio de Janeiro, as this space is incorporated in and uncoupled from a process that transforms socially constructed spaces into merchandise.
From its creation until the nineteenth century, the port took part in the classical patterns of primitive accumulation by integrating Brazil into world capitalism through the outflow of sugar, then gold and coffee, in addition to the inflow of manufactured goods and a contingent of about two million Africans that were kidnapped, enslaved and traded. This port received the highest number of enslaved Africans in the entire American continent. The right to provide such service was restricted to a private contractor: the Governor’s brother.
However, since its beginnings, the physical space of the port was itself integrated into various forms of accumulation. The first major traffic increase took place in the early seventeenth century and was connected to the outflow of sugar. In 1618, this traffic led Governor Rui Vaz Pinto to publish a legal decree establishing the use of black slaves to load and unload ships. It was clearly a mechanism meant to take over the space to create value, as only slaveholders were able to load goods in the port. This decree also represented the beginning of regular stevedoring services and established their legal system, namely the privilege or monopoly, since the right to provide such service was restricted to a private contractor: the Governor’s brother.
- blogTO lists some of the most dangerous bus routes on the TTC, at least from the perspective of criminal activities.
- The Broadside Blog lauds the very tangibility of vinyl.
- Centauri Dreams considers SETI search strategies.
- Crooked Timber looks at the politics of hair in slavery societies.
- D-Brief considers LISA, the space-based gravitational wave observatory.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes a Chinese proposal to launch a Hubble-like telescope into orbit.
- The LRB Blog examines the fragile economy built by refugee entrepreneurs in Greece.
- Marginal Revolution notes the predominance of women in technical education in Sweden.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer can't understand the insanely self-destructive fiscal policies of West Virginia, cutting necessary state spending while subsidizing big business.
- Spacing Toronto's John Lorinc is skeptical of the idea that progress will be made on regional transit given the massive confusion.
National Geographic's Andrew Lawler reports on technological advances, including DNA, which are allowing researchers to discover the origins of slave populations throughout the Atlantic world.
“This will change our understanding of population and migration histories,” says Hannes Schroeder, a biological anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen. “What was just potential is now being fulfilled.”
One example comes from a 17th century cemetery on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of St. Martin. When archaeologists excavated the site in 2010, they noticed filed teeth in the skulls of two men and a woman. The three individuals were between 25 and 40 years old when they died in the late 1600s.
Since teeth filing was a common practice in sub-Saharan Africa, it was a good bet that the individuals were enslaved Africans brought to the colony in the days of sugar plantations.
Just five years ago, that would have been the end of the story. An attempt to extract DNA from the skeletons to learn more about their identity would have been quixotic, since hot and humid weather degrades genetic material.
“These were badly preserved,” said Schroeder. “They had been laying under a Caribbean beach for four hundred years.” By contrast, biologists in 2012 readily sequenced the entire genome from Otzi, the frozen “ice man” who died in the Alps five thousand years ago.
After months of careful work, however, Schroeder’s team was able to extract DNA from the St. Martin individuals using a new procedure called whole-genome capture. Devised at Stanford University in California, this technique concentrates the degraded genes, providing enough material to sequence.
By comparing the results with a database from modern-day Africans, the researchers determined that all three people came from different parts of that continent. One of the men likely came from what is today northern Cameroon, while the other man and the woman may have originated in Ghana or Nigeria to the south.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly advises readers how to conduct interviews.
- City of Brass' Aziz Poonawalla thanks Obama for quoting his letter on Islam in America.
- Crooked Timber takes issue with The New Yorker's stance on Sanders.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes the complexity of interactions between stellar winds and the magnetospheres of hot Jupiters.
- Joe. My. God. notes that ex-gay torturers in the United States have gone to Israel.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the scale of the breakdown in Venezuela.
- Marginal Revolution looks at changing patterns in higher education.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that carbon capture is difficult.
- Peter Rukavina shares a preliminary printed map of Charlottetown transit routes.
- Savage Minds notes the importance of infrastructure.
- Strange Maps shares very early maps of Australia.
- Torontoist notes an early freed slave couple in Toronto, the Blackburns.
- Window on Eurasia notes the implications of global warming for Arctic countries.
- Centauri Dreams looks at the latest findings from repurposed Kepler.
- The Dragon's Gaze examines the stars of the apparently most habitable exoplanets found by Kepler and speculates as to the impact of stellar cosmic rays on the habitability of worlds in red dwarf systems.
- The Dragon's Tales examines the differences between carbon emissions from different Indonesian fires.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how black pain has been ignored at least as far back as the end of slavery, when black families tried to reunite.
- Marginal Revolution notes North Korean incomprehension of American motives.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer applauds the Mexican soda tax.
- Towleroad notes crime in the United Kingdom visited on users of Grindr.
- Window on Eurasia suggests that the good bits of the 1990s are underestimated by many Russians and warns that Kadyrov's appropriation of North Caucasian traditions risks encouraging Islamism.
This Al Jazeera article looking at the enslavement of Southeast Asians in the Thai fisheries is depressing.
Impoverished migrant workers in Thailand are sold or lured by false promises and forced to catch and process fish that ends up in global food giant Nestle SA's supply chains.
The unusual disclosure comes from Geneva-based Nestle SA itself, which in an act of self-policing announced the conclusions of its year-long internal investigation on Monday. The study found virtually all U.S. and European companies buying seafood from Thailand are exposed to the same risks of abuse in their supply chains.
Nestle SA, among the biggest food companies in the world, launched the investigation in December 2014, after reports from news outlets and nongovernmental organizations tied brutal and largely unregulated working conditions to their shrimp, prawns and Purina brand pet foods. Its findings echo those of The Associated Press in reports this year on slavery in the seafood industry that have resulted in the rescue of more than 2,000 fishermen.
The laborers come from Thailand's much poorer neighbors Myanmar and Cambodia. Brokers illegally charge them fees to get jobs, trapping them into working on fishing vessels and at ports, mills and seafood farms in Thailand to pay back more money than they can ever earn.
- Centauri Dreams reports on the non-existence of Alpha Centauri Bb.
- The Dragon's Tales notes the exciting new findings from Pluto, including news that it supports a subsurface ocean.
- The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the power of student protests at the University of Missouri.
- Joe. My. God. notes the promise of anti-viral injections in treating HIV.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money reacts to a historical student of slavery in the US urban south.
- Marginal Revolution notes the slow pace at which US immigration records are being digitized.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that before 1960, contrary to the current trend, African-Americans with identifiably African-American names did better than average.
- The Russian Demographics Blog notes the size of Poland-Lithuania in 1635.
- Towleroad notes how a photo of Justin Trudeau with the same-sex family of Scott Brison went viral.
- Transit Toronto looks at the upcoming TTC open house on the 12th.
- Window on Eurasia notes that North Caucasians have reason for protest apart from ethnicity and suggests Russian regionalism is not related to ethnicity.
- Cody Delistraty links to his article in The New Yorker on Julian Barnes.
- The Dragon's Tales looks at exoplanet K2-22b, a disintegrating rocky world with a comet's tail.
- Imageo points out we can't be sure about the consequences of this coming El Nino.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money supports Paul Theroux's arguments re: Southern deindustrialization.
- Marginal Revolution notes that African slave migrants to the Americas before 1800 may have outnumbered European migrants by four or even eight to one.
- The New APPS Blog examines Michel Foucault's analysis of Iran.
- Torontoist maps the city's homeless shelters.
- Towleroad notes how Chinese activists revealed h existence of electroshock for gay people.
- The Volokh Conspiracy notes the problems with courts ruling over issues of religious doctrine.
- Window on Eurasia suggests Russia is being left behind by the Pacific Century and notes the survival of terrorism in the North Caucasus.
- Claus Vistesen of Alpha Sources notes that though the stock market might be peaking, we don't know when.
- blogTO warns that Toronto might consider a bid for the 2024 Olympics.
- James Bow thinks about Ex Machina.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly looks forward to her impending visit to Maine.
- Centauri Dreams features an essay by Michael A.G. Michaud looking at modern SETI.
- Crooked Timber finds that even the style of the New York intellectuals of the mid-20th century is lacking.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes that a search for superjovians around two nearby brown dwarfs has failed.
- The Dragon's Tales considers the flowing nitrogen ice of Pluto.
- Geocurrents compares Chile's Aysén region to the Pacific Northwest.
- Joe. My. God. shares the new Janet Jackson single, "No Sleeep".
- Language Log looks at misleading similarities between Chinese and Japanese words as written.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that the low-wage southern economy dates back to slavery.
- Marginal Revolution is critical of rent control in Stockholm and observes the negative long-term consequences of serfdom in the former Russian Empire.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes how Jamaica is tearing down illegal electrical connections.
- Savage Minds considers death in the era of Facebook.
- Towleroad looks at how the Taipei city government is petitioning the Taiwanese high court to institute same-sex marriage.
- The Volokh Conspiracy argues restrictive zoning hurts the poor.
- Window on Eurasia looks at how Tatarstan bargains with Moscow, looks at Crimean deprivation and quiet resistance, considers Kazakh immigration to Kazakhstan, and argues Russian nationalist radicals might undermine Russia itself.
Nicola Frith and Kate Hodgson write at Open Democracy about race and slavery and historical memory in France, and their complications.
Race was central to constructing and maintaining slavery in France’s colonies, as it was across the colonial plantation world more generally. Key distinctions between subjects racialised as ‘white’ and ‘black’ shaped economic patterns, legal affairs and social relationships. Enslaved Africans were sought-after merchandise among the French merchants and plantation owners who made fortunes from the sale of what they crudely referred to as ‘ebony wood’. A legal text governing master-slave relations was created called the Black Code (1685). This outlawed relationships between free and enslaved persons, restricted the movements of slaves, and defined the harsh punishments to be used against slaves for any minor infringement or attempt to escape. The original colonial system placed a small white minority in control of a large but enslaved African majority, and was from the start a regime of terror, brutality and exploitation.
Yet the Black Code was not completely successful in its attempt to segregate and subjugate. This is evident in multiple forms of resistance, including poisoning, slave-led uprisings and ‘marronage’ (fugitive slaves). A growing free black and mixed-race population also began to emerge, posing a challenge to the stark, racialised binaries on which the colonial system was based. In response, additional colonial legislation was passed to restrict the activities of free people of colour. A total of 128 categories of skin colour were meticulously catalogued, from black to white, from ‘Sacatra’ to ‘Quarteron’.
The resentment provoked by this apartheid-esque system exploded with the arrival of French revolutionary ideas to the colonies, culminating in the mass revolt of the enslaved Africans in Saint Domingue. This became known as the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). The French Atlantic world was transformed with the birth of Haiti as the first black-led, post-slave, post-colonial nation state. One of the most radical aspects of Haiti’s independence was the article in the 1805 constitution that abolished distinctions of skin colour, with all Haitians henceforth identified as black. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the constitution’s creator, did this to help unify a nation still deeply marked by the structural racism of its French origins.
The French colonial bureaucracy took the opposite stance after it abolished slavery in the rest of France’s plantation colonies in 1848. In contrast to Haiti’s assertion of blackness, French republicanism embraced a ‘neutral’ identity based on the idea of assimilation to French cultural values and a desire to forget the slave past. This rhetoric of neutrality towards racial difference masked the reality of continued exploitation, including forced labour, indenture, and the use of detention centres. These and other practices effectively created a two-tier system of national identity based upon racial divisions. Numerous individuals who grew up during this period have testified to the profoundly alienating effects of a colonial education that worked to deny their history and erase their identity.
In an essay at The Atlantic that demonstrates his typical brilliance, "What This Cruel War Was Over", Ta-Nehisi Coates goes to great lengths to demonstrate that the Confederacy--and, by extension, its flag--were all about slavery and white racism.
I was pleased to see this reference:
The island country of Genosha in the Marvel universe is a state off the east African coast notorious for its practice of mutant slavery.
If only I could exercise my wit and intelligence in as thorough and topical a manner as Coates! Read the essay: it's superb.
This afternoon, in announcing her support for removing the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asserted that killer Dylann Roof had “a sick and twisted view of the flag” which did not reflect “the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it.” If the governor meant that very few of the flag’s supporters believe in mass murder, she is surely right. But on the question of whose view of the Confederate Flag is more twisted, she is almost certainly wrong.
Roof’s belief that black life had no purpose beyond subjugation is “sick and twisted” in the exact same manner as the beliefs of those who created the Confederate flag were “sick and twisted.” The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten. Over the next few months the word “heritage” will be repeatedly invoked. It would be derelict to not examine the exact contents of that heritage.
This examination should begin in South Carolina, the site of our present and past catastrophe. South Carolina was the first state to secede, two months after the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was in South Carolina that the Civil War began, when the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. The state’s casus belli was neither vague nor hard to comprehend:...A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
In citing slavery, South Carolina was less an outlier than a leader, setting the tone for other states[.]
I was pleased to see this reference:
Thus in 1861, when the Civil War began, the Union did not face a peaceful Southern society wanting to be left alone. It faced an an aggressive power, a Genosha, an entire society based on the bondage of a third of its residents, with dreams of expanding its fields of the bondage further South. It faced the dream of a vast American empire of slavery.
The island country of Genosha in the Marvel universe is a state off the east African coast notorious for its practice of mutant slavery.
If only I could exercise my wit and intelligence in as thorough and topical a manner as Coates! Read the essay: it's superb.
Tryon P. Woods and P. Khalil Saucier look, at Open Democracy, on the legacies of slavery and racism on migration in the Mediterranean basis.
The tragic weekend of April 18-19, 2015, in which over 700 so-called African ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ perished less than 130 miles from the Italian island of Lampedusa, with another 400 Africans stranded in the Mediterranean desperately awaiting rescue, repeated with violent clarity the terms of black death and suffering which continue to underwrite the modern world and the European project in particular. Lampedusa, as one of the southernmost outposts of ‘Fortress Europe,’ has buried scores and scores of Africans in recent years—this most recent spectacle will probably be eclipsed by the next one by the time this essay goes to print—as part of Europe’s ongoing confrontation with the world it created through African enslavement and colonial subjection for over five centuries.
Our intervention into the debate on Europe’s border policies addresses from the vantage of black political praxis the historical specter of slavery haunting current events. Calls for action on the Mediterranean crisis frequently mobilize the discourse of slavery in various ways, but never in the way most pertinent to our contemporary situation. The most ethical assessment of the Mediterranean crisis is not in the terms of what Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and many others call the ‘new’ or ‘modern-day’ slave trade, but rather in terms of racial slavery’s constitutive and consolidating role in the formation and functioning of Europe and modern society itself. The Mediterranean Basin has been an ongoing crisis for black people for the better part of the past and present millenniums. At issue, then, is a more accurate understanding of what slavery was in order to grasp what it is today. We suggest, following the leading edge of black thought, that today’s scene in the Mediterranean reveals slavery’s afterlife.
One mark of slavery’s afterlife is the manner in which black suffering and death in the Mediterranean sustains and resuscitates European democratic society. Case in point is ‘The Charter of Lampedusa,’ a document produced by activists in response to the fatal shipwreck of October 2013. The ‘Charter’ deploys accessible black bodies in order to illustrate the tension between good and bad Europeanness in much the same way that antiracist protests throughout Europe have affixed images of dead black bodies adrift to their placards of choice. Thus, rather than the problem of antiblackness, the ‘Charter’ formulates the issue at hand as an excess of Europeanness and militarism, as the barbarity of EU border controls. It becomes a means of elaborating a positive European identity, an antiracist cosmopolitan identity ostensibly attuned to all human suffering, but in reality primarily concerned to save Europe from itself, for Europeans. In this instance, black struggle becomes a medium for psychic transformation: in death, the Lampedusa victims enable Europeans to re-emerge as civilized, which is to say enlightened, subjects.
One recent Italian commentator compared the public stripping and high-pressure hose washing of African detainees on Lampedusa to the Italian immigrant experience on Ellis Island at the turn of the twentieth century: “although not nearly as demeaning as what the refugees in Lampedusa undergo on a regular basis, we were humiliated by, and decried, the primitive physical examinations intended to discover which infectious diseases we were carrying. Only, at the time, it was easier to be outraged as we were the victims.” This effort to identify with the captive African turns in on itself because rather than feel what it means to be left to drown within sight of the European coast, over and over again, the Italian commentator instead begins to feel for himself, or for his national kin. The analogy falters across the abyss of slavery, for that is where black people were permanently imprisoned while Italians were momentarily detained at Ellis Island. In short, the antiracist is the policeman: in the attempt to counteract the indifference of European society to the immigrant’s suffering, the putative white body of the EU assumes the position of the captive black body in order to make the suffering in the Euro-Mediterranean Sea visible, legible, and coherent.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly considers old friends.
- Centauri Dreams considers the search for extraterrestrial civilizations using infrared astronomy, concentrating on Dyson spheres and the like.
- The Dragon's Gaze has two links to papers looking at unusual brown dwarfs.
- The Dragon's Tales reports on the flora of late Permian Antarctica.
- Language Log notes a potentially problematic effort at Bangladesh to put hundreds of thousands of Bengali words online with Google, ready for translators. What of quality control, Victor Mair asks?
- Lawyers, Guns and Money comments on the Burmese slaves in the Thai fisheries and looks at the desperate last efforts of Confederates to persist.
- Marginal Revolution suggests that air conditioning really didn't drive much interstate migration in the United States.
- The Planetary Society Blog observes discoveries and anticipation for more at Ceres and Pluto.
- Savage Minds looks to the example of Lesotho to point out that giving people land title by no means necessarily helps them out of poverty.
- Torontoist looks at the Prism music video prize.