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<nettime> They Say Liberia is Our Past
Soenke Zehle on Sat, 26 Jul 2003 15:26:51 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> They Say Liberia is Our Past


Taking in current images of intra-state conflict (Liberia, Congo), I have
been wondering about the mutuality of conceptual approaches to state failure
and the development of a corresponding visual idiom along a common -
Hobbesian - vector that takes us - conceptually, historically, visually -
'back' to a presumeably anarchic state of nature, a visual idiom that
supports the ideas of state failure as a 'regression' we are offered in
political
commentary(<http://www.globalpolicy.org/nations/sovereign/failed/2003/0725la
w.htm>) and, as a 'side effect', strengthens our affective attachment to
'our' states at home.

Zizek commented on a similar dynamic in the course of various conflicts
across former Yugoslavia and, if I remember this correctly, linked the
ahistorical analysis of 'ancient tribal hatreds' to the articulation of a
future European identity. So now, it's back to Africa, and here again, I
can't help think that the reporting we get of intra-state conflict somehow
feeds back into processes of state and supra-state transformation. No
conspiracy, just a coincidence of effects that will nonetheless have
material consequences.

My interest in this conceptual-visual intersection was actually triggered by
an exhibit in Duesseldorf on representations of (state) sovereignty
("Visuelle Formierungen von staatlicher Macht", see
<http://www.kunsthalle-duesseldorf.de>), but also a growing interest in
state failure in
general(<http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/inscr/stfail/index.htm>,<http://www.global
policy.org/nations/sovereign/failedindex.htm>) as well as the ecopolitical
dimensions of conflict
(<http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/docs/minindx.htm>).

The charge has often been made that analysis of the
environmental dimension of conflict is really an economism in
ecopolitical disguise, but the (implicit) Hobbesian of much commentary on
the genealogy of conflict tends to 'naturalize' the state to such an extent
that other dimensions, including resource issues, just don't get the
attention they deserves. For some recent stuff on Liberia, for example,
check <http://www.muckraker.org> - who would have thought that home
improvement (timber) helps fund children's armies abroad.

As the controversy over a certification system for 'conflict diamonds'
shows, this dimension of conflict resolution - far below the threshold of
military intervention, but also quite a bit more active than 'diplomatic
interventions' - is far beyond what a consumer-political environmentalism
could accomplish on its own. I think, for example, that this type
of corporate brand campaign is much more difficult to organize than a
campaign that addresses corporate misconduct - child labor, abuse of labor
laws etc. - directly, and there's been some reflection on a new global
mechanism
to control these resource and profit flows
(<http://www.globalpolicy.org/nations/sovereign/failed/2003/0725resources.ht
m>), not sure what to think of it yet.

But still, I guess there's more than the visual regression into a state of
nature.

Soenke

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