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<nettime> 'strategic essentialism' 2.0 & 'reasonable accomodation' in Qu
tobias c. van Veen on Fri, 16 Nov 2007 21:59:09 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> 'strategic essentialism' 2.0 & 'reasonable accomodation' in Quebec .. in the 21C


I'd like to wind out of this labyrinthine & deadending discussion to
posit three general questions into the murky silence :

[1] what is the value of 'strategic essentialism' today? There have
been not a few debates on this list pitting 'strategic essentialism'
against nonidentity-based politics, whether Derridean or Deleuzean or
otherwise. Do the two camps remain irresolvable to this day? Do the
'two' camps still exist? Hasn't something else begun to take shape, as
I have been trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to articulate?

[2] In regards to the 'indigenuous' debate ; is there not a way to
rethink 'essentialism', i.e., to rethink the essentia/quiddatis
concept of the properties essential to a thing, which so easily gets
transposed into 'race' & 'nation' as Benjamin has pointed out, in
regards to 'indigenuous' claims to land title and, for example in
Canada but I am sure elsewhere, to autonomous self-gov't? Is every
instance of gov't a 'nation'? Does saying 'land for all' ewsolve the
question of historical redress to 'indigenuous' peoples by dismissing
their claims to autonomous self-gov't a priori?

[3] Is 'politics' an a priori concept, i.e., does it exist *not* as
historical construction of the Greek polis but rather, politics 'is
any social relation that regulates the exercise of power'? That what
existed before colonial occupation of the Americas was a 'politics'?
Aren't 'polis' and 'politics' also 'abstractions' like 'nation', i.e.,
constructed by a certain metaphysics?

--. In regards to the rest of the debate, which I hereby drop as
it loops nowhere, for the rekkid I do not believe I have supported
'strategic essentialism' or 'nation' in its variants as it has been
critiqued by Benjamin. There is something different going on here.
The use of terms such as 'First Nations' does not imply acceptance. I
believe I have demonstrated the complexity of the situation. I think,
rather, that what is going on in Canada is more complex than reducing
it to the analysis of 'nation', which is why I support land title
rights and autonomous self-gov't for what are called the First Nations
here -- for it [1] attempts historical redress in the name of justice
[2] poses the question of hospitality 'within' the nation-state and
[3] reopens the question of Canada as a nation-state by creating
pockets of differentiated autonomy within its boundaries.

Second, the problematic of 'nation' plays in Canada in a way that I
(and I am sure Benjamin) would consider extraordinarily dangerous.
I am speaking of the politics of 'nation' being played out by
not only Quebec Sovereigntists, but by federalists such as our
Conservative right PM, Stephen Harper, who wishes to placate Quebec
by calling it a 'nation' in Parliament.... Currently in Quebec we
have the Bouchard-Taylor commission (that's Charles Taylor, for those
interested) that is holding public forums on the question of what
is called 'reasonable accomodation' in Quebec society; i.e. 'how
far should Quebec society stretch to 'reasonably accomodate' (read:
non-Christian) religious rights and practices...)'.

The very basis of the commission is, as one can see by its framing,
problematic -- which is not to say that Taylor and Bouchard have
already sought to reorient it -- & the forums have, as to be expected
these days, I guess, dragged out from the woodwork incredible displays
of intolerance. That said its effects have raised the question of
'reasonable accomodation' and the interrogation of its presuppositions
to the level of 'national' debate in Canada. Radical atheism has also
resurfaced (Quebec went through 'the Quiet Revolution' in the 60s when
the Catholic Church was removed from holding power over education and
even juridical issues; since then Catholicism has steadily declined;
thus the 'reasonable accomodation' to *any* religion is regressive to
those who fought for the removal of the Catholic Church from power
thirty years ago).

Of course as one can guess the question of 'reasonable accomodation'
is really about 'Muslim' immigrants. The 'Muslim question' in
Quebec has now -- perhaps like the Netherlands? -- resurrected
the Sovereignty movement but also hardlined it to a politics of
'nation' which has alienated its 'soft' supporters. Is the situation
rigidifying or is it reopening channels of hospitality? The current
situation appears to be 'both, simultaneously'. The lines are being
drawn while at the same time there has never been so many attempts to
publicize and understand the issues. Yet, scarcely nowhere is it being
mentioned what we, again, call here in Canada 'the First Nations' in
this question of 'reasonable accomodation' or 'sovereignty;' which is
why I wish to applaud Artivistic once again for raising the question,
'what is indigenuous?'

-- tV

ps. I would hope dear B. [a] has managed to splutter through something
of the humour I attempt to inject and [b] is able to accept this
transatlantic kiss to an ex-pat American living in that old Queen's
residence (she still resides on the Canadian quarter, you know, her
head in profile... so take this as a report 'from the colonies'...).
Oh, as well as [c] let us render the detritus here more productive so
we don't dev/null more of the old guard like poor Fred.

tobias c. van Veen -----------++++
http://www.quadrantcrossing.org --
McGill Communication & Philosophy


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