Datacide 15

Multiculturalism, Immunisation and Rhythm

An interview with Alexej Ulbricht (AU) in March 2015, conducted by Jonathan Nassim and Mikala Rasmussen (JN/MR), with introduction and additional questions by David Cecil (DC).

DC: For many, Britain is an admirably diverse society. In the nineteenth century, London became a destination for immigrants fleeing wars in Europe. In the mid-twentieth century, the subjects of the British Empire (and later Commonwealth) were welcomed in Britain, partly as a much-needed labour force after the demographic ravages of the two world wars. The country became known for its tolerance of differing religious views and ways of life, with a rich tapestry of international cuisine, music, language and fashion in areas like Soho, Brixton and Whitechapel. The social and political means of accommodating this diversity was labelled ‘multiculturalism’, indicating a harmonious co-existence of different cultures. This accommodation was held to be distinct from the more integrationist approach adopted by France (e.g.), which sought to assimilate foreigners into the dominant French culture.

The self-conscious projection of Britain as a multicultural society reached its apogee in the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, which elaborately staged symbolic enactments of British culture and history. This gaudy nationalist spectacle, viewed by millions worldwide, included explicit tributes to multiculturalism, notably a dramatic depiction of Jamaicans arriving in Britain by boat in the 1950s.

However, hostility towards migrants and minorities is, if anything, on the rise. The Olympic ceremony was immediately and publicly condemned by a leading Conservative Member of Parliament as “leftie multicultural crap”; the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has successfully entered mainstream politics on an anti-immigration platform; while Germany’s islamophobic PEGIDA recently teamed up with the English Defence League to stage public protests in London.

How are we to understand a situation in which Britain both claims to embrace a diversity of people and their practices, while simultaneously rejecting them? On the one hand, British commentators seem to welcome the enrichment to its culture, but the same voices warn of dangers to indigenous employment, threats of terrorism and even the destruction of our green and pleasant land.

Is this contradiction simply to be dismissed as political opportunism? Or a confusion caused by ‘too much multiculturalism’? Or is there an underlying political strategy in this ‘love-hate’ relationship?

Alexej Ulbricht is a teaching fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (London), who has recently published a book entitled Multicultural Immunisation: Liberalism and Esposito. This is a timely contribution to our understanding of social and political attitudes to immigration, including the alleged threats to European culture from Islam and globalisation. Ulbricht takes a step back and asks what gives rise to the contradictions at the heart of liberal multiculturalism. He argues that liberalism is a straitjacket which makes multiculturalism possible only in a superficial sense. Liberal multiculturalism ‘immunises’ society by introducing a few safe elements of foreign cultures into the national body. Therefore, the current hostility is not so much a backlash against multiculturalism, but a strengthening of tendencies built into the liberal multicultural project. Ulbricht argues that we must re-think what multiculturalism is, and go beyond liberalism. Some of the answers, or models of an alternative multiculturalism, he finds in the Berlin musical underground and he speculates on how rhythm may offer another way of thinking about coexistence.

JN/MR: What was your initial inspiration for studying multiculturalism?

AU: The idea for this book was motivated by the kinds of things you read about immigration all the time and the way mainstream discourse about immigration seems to have changed rapidly. Hostile discourse was there all along, but the kind of traction it used to have is different from today. In 2005, the Tories ran an election campaign on the slogan ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking?’, which I remember because it was the year after I moved to this country. The campaign fell flat, but if they’d run it now they’d probably win on that same slogan. Thinking about that got me interested in multiculturalism. What I ended up arguing was that there is a lot more continuity than discontinuity regarding this kind of hostility towards immigrants. [Read more →]

A Cry Against Help* & 13 Prostheses on Carelessness of the Self

Psycho-historian Chris Millard has described the clinical invention of ‘self-harm’ as a category so narrow that most cases actually treated (eg. overdoses of non-’recreational’ drugs) don’t count.** The term ‘self-harm’ becomes shorthand for young white women damaging their skin, which they do for standardized personal reasons. Impersonal reasons and anomalous personal ones are sidelined in the diagnostic process, along with atypical patients and nine tenths of the ways of physically assaulting the abstract self.

So much for the exact words.

But figurative speech serves social policing in strange ways. If the literal meaning has leaked out of self-harm over the last four decades, it has sunk deep into ordinary social management in the meantime. [Read more →]

Towards a New African Fascism – Kagame’s Rwanda in the 21st Century

Kagame2

“If you go back to the birth of nations, if you come down to our own day, if you examine peoples in all possible conditions from the state of barbarism to the most advanced civilisation, you always find war. From this primary cause … the effusion of blood has never ceased in this world.”
Joseph de Maistre (1797)

—-

Civilisation is measured by its roads; uneven development is revealed by its potholes. The Romans ruled the extent of their imperium along their via; the Victorians penetrated with protractors and railroads; lately, the BBC has devoted an entire chauvinistic TV series (‘Top Gear’) to ridiculing the absence of ‘proper’ roads outside the Western comfort zone.

Rwanda’s roads could never be straight, for every inch of this African emerald is set across a vertiginous mountain range. But its winding roads are perfect. Too perfect. They are fastidiously-tarmacked, governed, regulated spaces with delineated sidewalks, freshly-painted lines, rationalised roundabouts, 12-hour street lighting, advance-warning filter systems, traffic lights which work – and which are obeyed. This is not only in the capital, Kigali: all the way south in the border town of Gisenyi, one can gaze smugly from its smooth Paradise into the shambolic warzone of eastern Congo; at the other end of the country, a European visitor to the northern town of Nyagatare could be forgiven for thinking they were in Liechtenstein.

To make matters even more disconcertingly ‘un-African’, Rwandan drivers always follow traffic regulations, even when no-one is looking.

—-

My first visit to Rwanda is in 2008. It’s only 10pm and Kigali is already dead. I’m with Karlsson, a foul-mouthed Swedish academic, and we are looking for somewhere to have another beer. He’s researching the controversial topic of media freedom and I am keen to hear of his findings. We’ve had the uneasy feeling all day that people have been eavesdropping on us. To anyone listening in, our conversation must sound bizarre. You cannot meaningfully discuss Rwandan politics without mentioning their ethnic factions, the Hutu and the Tutsi, yet the regime has literally outlawed the use of the terms ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’, unless you use them in a close approximation of the following phrase: “… the Hutu genocide against the Tutsi.” So in the spirit of naughty schoolboys we spend the whole day talking politics by substituting the ethnicities with the terms ‘Hookers’ and ‘Trannies’ (as in transvestites). “Some claim there were actually more Hookers killed by the Trannies in reprisals…” or “the Trannies are simply burying the issue and the Hookers are going to boil over one day soon, you’ll see…” 1

In this prematurely deceased night we sit down and relax in the absence of flitting eyes. We are probably being paranoid to think we were shadowed the whole day, but we’d be well-advised in that attitude. Karlsson would simply be the latest foreign researcher or journalist to have his visa revoked. The Rwandan authorities are justified in their vigilance. Only 5 years earlier Rwanda had been one of the most feared protagonists in the Second Congo War (9 combatant nations and nearly 6 million deaths) and only 14 years earlier Hutu Power had conducted a genocide in Rwanda itself (800,000 deaths).

Karlsson staggers off in search of a demarcated urination spot and I enter a kiosk bar, the only place open as far as the eye can see. There is a middle-aged man drinking at the counter. He stares fixedly at me as I try and order beer and cigarettes. The kiosk is brightly-lit by ghastly neon. High up on the wall is the ubiquitous framed image of President Paul Kagame, sitting up straight, his narrow neck-tied frame topped by bespectacled, beady eyes. “Hey you! Do you know who that man is?” the sodden customer addresses me breezily. “Yes”, I smirk, attempting some levity, “he’s the main man, the numero uno – the big cheese!” There is a brief silence as the drinker contemplates me; his lips are now snarled with contempt. “This man” he hisses, grabbing my sleeve and jabbing his finger towards the icon, “is our saviour. He is a God to us.” The barman abruptly finishes the transaction and President Kagame watches from the wall as I leave his kiosk. [Read more →]

Sincere Genesis – On Félix Guattari & Groups

guattariquebec1991_72

“Sooner or later the Situationist International must
define itself as a therapy: we are ready to defend the
poetry made by all against the false poetry
rigged up by power”
– Raoul Vaneigem

As a psychoanalyst and militant, Félix Guattari seems to have engaged with the problem of groups for all his life. Across his writing we see him putting forth, as part of a collaborative process, various conceptualisations of group life which are to a larger or lesser degree operational concepts which he had experienced and worked with. These are: institutional analysis, the subject and subjugated group and the collective assemblage of enunciation. Several themes, gathering points for his later more pronounced interest in the production of subjectivity, appear to flow through all of these concepts: transversalism, a mixed semiotic and the subject as ‘supra-personal’. [Read more →]

Obekna

Scenario by Olivier Noel, Drawings by Simon Lejeune.

Click (twice) on the images to enlarge. See below for more details.

obekna-page-1-eng-low [Read more →]

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 Next