McKenzie Wark on Thu, 12 Dec 2002 05:52:45 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> response to Mr. Wark

Dear Coco,

    I quite agree that the "solution involves learning about racism and how it
is expressed in your culture, your words, your theories and your attitudes."
And I have certainly learned a lot from your posts on the subject, and from
your writings elsewhere. I also agree that the "insistance that racism is
incidental... is precisely the genius of American liberalism." It is a way of
avoiding the constitutive role of exclusion in founding the liberal concept of
the polity and its 'tolerance'.

How does the fascist in us arise? This was the quesion motivating Anti-
Oedipus, which as Foucault notes, in fundamentally a book about ethics.  The
fascist, even the micro-fascist, arises out of the paranoid construct of the
subject, the subject that is a blank space, called into being by what it
negates, and hence inevitably compelled to negate what is other to it all the
more when it feels attacked or outmatched. This is one way of theorizing what
the racist subject is doing when it 'does' racism.

Can one oppose this racism by attaching a positive value to what is excluded?
By reversing the poles? One might say this was the strategy of Black
Nationalism. As you say, hybridity distanced itself from this tactic of
response to white racism. But it does so in the same terms. Its dialectic is
the dialectic against the two kinds of identity. It changes the terms of the
dlalectic but not the dialectical relation.

And hence one does not arrive, via this hybridity, at multiplicity. One stays
within the paranoid construct. One is not a racist, one is an anti-racist, but
this identity emerges as negation and repeats itself as the same negation.  It
doesn't open itself to difference. It calls for the invention of a new tactic.

It's a comforting discourse, because one's lack of the actual power one
attributes to the other has its compensation in the moral power of pointing out
the lack. Is this not what you are doing, in your second post, where you raise
the rhetorical stakes? Where everyone here is implicated in imperial crimes of
the highest order -- except yourself? I agree we are implicated.  But so too --
are you.

Unfortunately, we cannot always determine how others regard us. You may want to
present yourself as a CUBAN-America, but i hear a cuban-AMERICAN.  You presume
to tell someone from another culture how to regard their own culture, just like
an American. You presume a moral authority grounded in the purity of an
interiority that looks out at the world, just like an American.  You adopted
the adversarial style of email discourse, just like an American.  You privilege
the subject as a node of moral autonomy -- just like an American.

To me your discourse really is a hybrid, a mix of privilege, wounded pride,
genuine anger, rhetorical violence. To you it is node of superiority from which
you can correct the failings of the other. Well, to each their own hell of

I'm glad you mention my home country, Australia. It is precisely through the
experience of the struggles against racism and the attempt to think them
through in the Australian context that i came to reject the imperial
pretensions of a certain kind of transnational postcolonial discourse. It's not
just me, either. Read Marcia Langton on the return to an agenda of economic
sovereignty in Aboriginal politics. Or read the way Ghasshan Hage is now using
an 'economy of hope' as a way of thinking about the connection between the
hollowing out of the state and the return of 'hard' racism in state policy.

I won't reprise the Australian situation here, some urls with my contributions
to that debate is appended.

Of couse i have to resist the temptation here to play the same discursive game,
to merely call attention to your position of privilege as if i could acheive a
hollowing out of my own responsibility and implication in the multiple
relations that produce us. There is no access to knowledge down that route. In
evacuating a real multiplicity (hybridity if you want to call it that) one cuts
oneself off from what needs to be thought. One thinks one is one's imaginary
relation to the other; one does not see one's immersion in the multiple lines
of the symbolic.  Nor does one construct a way of thinking adequate to the
resourcefulness of (post)colonial strategies of escape from the dialectic.

Take nettime, for example -- does one learn much from this assimilation of it
to white power that you rhetorically effect? One would learn only that one has
to ignore its complexities, and accept your version of the alternative, not to
mention your authority to speak for what  is other to it. Of course nettime
isn't "marginal", as you say. But then neither are you, as your apologies for
the disciplinary apparatus of academic knowledge make abundantly clear.

On the other hand, we could have a look at nettime's involvement in the opening
to eastern europe. It was done very carefully, with attention all round to the
traps of otherness. Very important when one reads what was written and of what
was done during the wars of the Balkans. Maybe it doesn't amount to much. We
cannot all claim the victory of the Brazilian Worker's Party to belong in some
sense, to one's self. But there is a practice there, in nettime, syndicate,
beauty and the east, the Bastard! free newspaper on Kosovo. There is a practice
from i personally have learnt a great deal.

Of course one miscommunicates. There is no escape from communication as the
proliferation of difference, the deferral of meaning. But one can do so in more
or less useful ways. One can stay trapped in the dialectic of power and
resentment, in the negativity of lack. Or one can attempt to affirm a
multiplicity that is at the same time not a liberal presumptive equality. In
other words there are (at least) three positions in the debate, not two. You
collapse the other two (the positions other to you, liberalism and
multiplicity) as if they were the same and subsume then in a dialectic.

Fortunately, i don't think what you are doing here is at all representative of
postcolonialism as a critical discourse, or a tactic of engagement. I just
don't think you speak for it. The fury with which you turn up the accusations
when pressed to think this through is only testament to this. You can hurl as
many accusations as you like, but i am not intimidated by them. To me they
merely point to a weakness you refuse to acknowledge.



Distorted View of Black Culture

Mabo Deconstructed

Roots of Indigenous Communication

Landfill (dialogue with John Kinsella)

Australian government and cultural policy

Mateship and Meritocracy

Pauline Hanson and the Press

Mabo, A Bedtime Story

Imagining the Antipodes

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