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Islam/Muslims

Their provocation of the “Islamic threat” posits the Muslims as being backwards and in need of civilizing by the west—this makes war inevitable by marking Muslims as precarious in life that can be killed with impunity


Jiwani 2015 [Yasmin Jiwani BA, Psychology, University of British Columbia MA, Sociology, Simon Fraser University PhD, Communications, Simon Fraser.; interests focus on the intersecting influences of race and gender within the context of media representations of racialized groups and violence against women. "Violating In/Visibilities." Feminist Surveillance Studies (2015): 79-92.//KHS]

In the post-9/11 context the Muslim body became signified as the bearer of risk, carrying within it the threat of destruction—either through stealth weapons technologies, through the infiltration of Shariah laws, or through the presumed fecundity of Muslim women whose offspring threaten to invade the Western nation-state (Grewal 2003; Werbner 2007). Indeed, the furor and moral panic over the issue of Muslim women wearing the hijab and niqab in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia signify the condensed anxieties and fears about the possible invasion of Islam in the West, its incursion into and infiltration of the body politic, as well as its potential to engulf Western culture(s) (Razack 2008; J. W. Scott 2007; Zine 2009). Jasmin Zine (2009) effectively demonstrates how the tropes of “disciplining culture,” “death by culture,” and “death of culture” play into the coverage that Muslims, and especially Muslim women, receive in the dominant Western press. Each of these tropes relies on the disciplinary and surveilling power of the state, which identifies the specific cultures that are to be disciplined (through technologies of racial profiling for instance). The “death by culture” trope focuses on Muslim women’s apparent vulnerability to the perceived violence of their cultures. Honor killings become a signifier of that particularity of violence seen as endemic to Islam. This again, through media coverage, provides a rationale for disciplining particular cultural groups. Finally, the trope of “death by culture” summons forth fears of invasion, of a nation being engulfed by recalcitrant minorities with deviant cultural and religious practices. All of this rests on the corporeality of the body—that which signals its difference. In the Shafia trial coverage, these tropes were evident in the manner in which the press reports described both the victims and the perpetrators of the murders. For instance, the young women victims were consistently described as normal teenagers caught in a culture conflict with their ultrapatriarchal father and their Afghan Muslim upbringing. Their aspirations to conform to dominant norms through the wearing of Western clothes and through heterosexual relations outside the familial context were consistently highlighted (Jiwani 2014). Thus, they were portrayed as victims of “death by culture”—implying that it was the cultural tradition of honor, as invested in them, that caused their death. The repeated circulation of these young women’s photographs and “selfies” (self-photographs) in various poses, mostly in Western dress, made them seem more “like us” and hence elicited considerable sympathy from the audience. At the same time, the reporting, through the panopticism of the media, served as a disciplining tool; it communicated to Afghan Canadian communities, as well as to other Muslims, that their communities were under surveillance and that femicides were not permitted in Canada. However, rather than this being a general condemnation of all kinds of femicides within any and all communities, it was the specificity of honor killings as associated with Muslim culture and Afghan traditions that were castigated as “un-Canadian” and therefore uncivilized. As the Ontario Superior Court judge Robert Maranger stated in his judgment, which was widely reported in the press: “It is difficult to conceive of a more despicable, more heinous crime. . . . [T]he apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor . . . that has absolutely no place in any civilized society” (Bascaramurty and Freeze 2012, A1). The lead prosecutor, Gerard Laarhuis, in his statement to the media declared, “This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles in a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy” (Appleby 2012, A6). The civilizational discourse is apparent in these quotes, as is the binary of Canada as progressive, egalitarian, and free of gender-based violence, in contrast to Afghanistan or other Muslim majority countries, which are cast as “uncivilized” and gender oppressive. But here again, femicide was not regarded as the root issue; the media instead constructed the Shafia murders as another sign of the importation of Islam with its presumed barbaric practices, a sign that represented a threat to an imagined community of white Canadian bodies. We continually see commercial media and state attempts to distinguish between different kinds of violence against women through the representation of the Shafia murders as “honor killings.” As the feminist theorist Sherene Razack aptly notes, A crime of honor is a crime originating in culture/race, whereas a crime of passion originates in gender (abstracted from all other considerations). A crime of honor thus involves body, emerging as it does as a cultural tradition, and a crime of gender is mind, a distinctly individualized practice born of deviancy and criminality. The honor/passion distinction not only obscures the cultural and community approval so many crimes against women have in majority culture, but it reifies Muslims as stuck in premodernity while Westerners have progressed as fully rational subjects with the capacity to choose moral actions, even if the choice is a bad one. (2008, 128) Razack’s insightful analysis demonstrates how cultural differences are freighted with the burden of gendered violence, absenting the responsibility for such violence and failing to note the prevalence of patriarchy in all societies. What makes the elision possible is the strategic use of cultural signifiers to demarcate and stigmatize particular groups or communities. Signifiers attached to the bodies of those who are considered different are often used to mark cultural deviance. Joseph Pugliese refers to such culturally coded signifiers as somatechnics, which he defines as “the indissociable way in which the body of a subject is always already technologised and mediated by cultural inscriptions. In the West, this somatechnologisation of unassimilable culturalist difference can be seen to be operative across the broad spectrum of cultural artefacts inscribed by the sign ‘Islam,’ including the black beard, the hijab, the headscarf and the niqab” (2009, 13). The notion of somatechnics as techne related to the body returns our analytical focus back to the corporeal body “in which the body, the social-economic-political conditions of embodied subjectivity, and the relationship between the body and the body politic are taken as important sites of political struggles” (Salter 2006, 178). Here, corporeality is the site where relations of power are played out. Bodies that are absented from political considerations—from the field of power, as it were—are bodies whose corporeal presence is denuded of significance. These are the bodies that don’t count in Judith Butler’s (2004) terms, precarious bodies, bodies that are ungrievable. Precarious lives are often relegated to the zone of structured invisibility within the actuarial gaze. They only enter the realm of the panopticon or the synopticon when their visibility becomes corporeally coupled with threat; surveillance then becomes the technology by which such bodies are made visible, with that visibility intimately tied to ways that these bodies are made vulnerable to state violence. Razack captures this connection elegantly when she writes, “The eviction of groups of people from political community begins with their difference, coded as an incomplete modernity that poses a threat to the nation” (2008, 84). That “incomplete modernity” comes through the surveillance of particular racialized and gendered communities. For example, this phenomenon occurs in the disproportionate media surveillance of Afghan communities in Canada—followed by allegations in press reports of Afghans as tribalistic, primitive, and atavistic. In the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, the popular columnist Margaret Wente, for instance, described Afghans in the following way: “Those who are responsible are most likely men from remote desert lands. Men from ancient tribal cultures built on blood and revenge. Men whose unshakable beliefs and implacable hatreds go back many centuries farther than the United States and its young ideas of democracy, pluralism, and freedom” (2001, A1). Here, orientalism becomes the lens motivating the placement of these bodies under surveillance as well as the theory rendering them intelligible through the mass media. Edward Said (1978) identifies four dogmas of orientalism, of which the fourth one is particularly relevant in this context: “that the Orient is at bottom something either to be feared (the Yellow Peril, the Mongol hordes, the brown dominions) or to be controlled (by pacification, research and development, outright occupation whenever possible)” (1978, 300–301). Orientalism has legitimized, and continues to legitimize, violent surveillance technologies and practices aimed particularly at Muslims and others from the Middle East (Jiwani 2011; Magnet 2012; Razack 2008). In the trial reporting examined, the Muslim affiliation of the perpetrators was clearly identified through references to prayers, Afghanistan, and polygamy, whereas the victims were consistently portrayed as rebelling against this imposed identity and social requirements. The trial press accounts also clearly identify the somatechnics of the perpetrators in ways that discursively demarcated them as different from the norm. Tooba Yahya Mohammad, for instance, was described in one account as “slight and pale, wearing a modest black tunic top over matching pants, cuffed at the wrist and ankle, her small chin quivered now and then, but she held it together—she is an Afghan, after all, tough and proud—until, as part of a court procedure, the prosecutor read aloud the names of her four surviving children” (Blatchford 2009, A2). As evident in this quote, the somatechnology that Pugliese describes in terms of identifiable cultural artifacts, such as a hijab, were conspicuously absent. Instead, the somatechne used to demarcate difference is stereotypical attributes of Afghan culture—Afghans as “tough and proud,” reminding the reader of a famous orientalist poem by Kipling, “The Young British Soldier.”3 Nonetheless, there were photographs displayed in court that showed the young Shafia women wearing hijabs, demonstrating that somatechnes worked to position these young victims as simultaneously at risk of patriarchal Islam while remaining emblematic signifiers of the oppressiveness of Islam. Pugliese further posits that the somatechnics of difference, where difference is signified as being unassimilable and as culturally foreign, result in a “prostheticized citizen subject” (2009, 21). The nonwhite body can never enjoy full or authentic citizenship; rather, it remains an otherconditionally tolerated, but never part of the body politic. Prosthetic citizenship can be taken away or withheld. It is never permanent. Whiteness as a racialized technology of power determines who can be granted citizenship and, with it, the security of belonging to the nation-state and of having rights that are recognized as rights and upheld within that body politic. The criteria by which specific bodies are seen as legitimate citizens as opposed to others who are denied such recognition rests on the race line (to use a term from Dubois about the ways in which U.S. culture is organized around a color line—that is, that white supremacy structures the U.S. polity according to race [1965/1999]). Mohammad Shafia, his second wife, Tooba Yahya, and his son, Hamed, remain prosthetic citizens. One way in which the media ensured this status was through the constant reference to their immigrant status and origins. Indeed, a key point held against Mohammad Shafia was that he had immigrated into the country on the basis of his capital and investment in property. He had “bought his residency in Canada under the federal investor-immigrant program” (Appleby 2012, A6). As prostheticized citizens, then, their murders are located outside the realm of the normative—this, despite the reality that in the year preceding this quadruple murder, forty-five women were killed in Canada as a result of domestic violence (Statistics Canada 2011). Seen as others, the murderers’ “fit” within Canada as a sovereign state is questioned. They mark the border between “us” and “them.” Shades of Afghanistan, with its “primitive, tribal culture,” are invoked in this coverage, clearly demarcating the boundaries between nations, cultures, and religions. It is, as Pugliese (2009) would suggest, a case of compulsory visibility.

The culture of surveillance fuels racialized boundaries where bodies are paternalized and constantly surveilled under state supervision


Jiwani 2015 [Yasmin Jiwani BA, Psychology, University of British Columbia MA, Sociology, Simon Fraser University PhD, Communications, Simon Fraser.; interests focus on the intersecting influences of race and gender within the context of media representations of racialized groups and violence against women. "Violating In/Visibilities." Feminist Surveillance Studies (2015): 79-92.//KHS]

Rachel L. Finn’s (2011) study of surveillant staring (being stared at) experienced by South Asian women in the United States emphasizes the corporeal aspects of being subjected to the daily “citizen-to-citizen surveillance” that has resulted from the heightened focus on security issues post-9/11. Drawing from Sara Ahmed, Finn argues that the signifiers of cultural differences and their embodiment in “strangers”—discursively defined as inassimilable others—serve to demarcate racialized boundaries and homogenize differences within those regarded as strangers. She notes, “Surveillance is an active social process that reinforces the differential structural positioning of its targets” (2011, 424). In a sense, this kind of surveillance demonstrates the synoptic influence of the mass media. Convinced about what terrorists “look like” based on images and messages from the media, citizens then take it on themselves, with permission and encouragement from state authorities, to spy on others. Yet it is Finn’s argument about how the bodies of others become defined as racialized boundaries that is of interest here, for if bodies signify borders, then the threat of difference as an invasive force becomes that much more potent. Conversely, if bodies are seen as borders to be invaded, rather than as a threat, then these bodies signify borders that can be overcome, transcended with the might of state power. In the Shafia case, both during the trial and after the verdict had been announced, the Canadian government granted $2.8 million to antiviolence organizations to help them sensitize service providers to signs of potential honor killings (Olwan 2013). In Montreal the Shield of Athena, an organization that provides multilingual services to victims of domestic violence was granted a hefty $350,000 to aid victims of honor crimes (Radio Canada 2012). Cultural sensitization becomes one way in which the state, through nonprofit organizations, carries out its surveillance of particular bodies. In contrast, as Olwan (2013) contends, organizations such as the aboriginal women’s organization Sisters of Spirit, along with many other aboriginal groups, were deprived of much-needed funding. These then represent the bodies that can be invaded or overcome and bodies that are precarious—that is, bodies that simply don’t count. The notion of different bodies as constitutive of a boundary separating “us” from “them”—the watchers from the watched—offers a way to reconceptualize security and surveillance. In the first sense, it brings home the notion of the marked body as a threat where the threat is no longer abstract but corporealized, where surveillance becomes, as Finn remarks, “democratized,” making it a duty for all good citizens to maintain heightened vigilance to signs of deviant differences. Recasting the body as border makes apparent the spatial relations of power; thus, the visibility of the marked body operates against the invisibility of the unmarked body, which is the body in dominance (e.g., whiteness against blackness). Here, as Rachel Hall also argues in her contribution to this volume, the white body is normalized and acts as the standard against which the racialized body is compared, and against which its differences are accentuated and signified within particular frames of meaning. John Gabriel (1998) refers to this as the power of exnomination, where the nominated body is the profiled body, or as Hall suggests (this volume), the profiled body is opaque, impenetrable, and therefore always suspect. The nominated body thus represents the borders of the social order, and interactions with such a body come to represent transgressions which may be seen as impure and dangerous. Hence, the Muslim bodies that committed the “honor killing” come to be framed in the same manner— as polluting agents who threaten to destabilize the social order by engaging in a heinous crime. That crime, through nomination, is defined as “honor killing” and thereby abstracted from the more widespread and prevalent pattern of femicides. Women, as Floya Anthias and Nira Yuval-Davis (1992) have underscored, are boundary markers in most ethnic groups. As women are reproducers of the nation, their role in upholding the moral order is a necessary foundation for the continuity of patriarchal power. However, where such patriarchal power has been defined as illegitimate and unacceptable (as in the case of Muslim men who are perceived as ultrapatriarchal), the potential exercise of such power is immediately put under surveillance. Witness, for instance, the state-mandated publications and workshops geared toward immigrant Muslim families in Europe. The stated aim of these is to inculcate in Muslim immigrants and refugees the proper norms regarding gender relations and sexual rights. The assumption that citizens at large customarily practice such egalitarian relations and equitable rights is simply taken for granted and rarely interrogated (Olwan 2013; Razack 2004). Shoshana Amielle Magnet (2011) discusses how the border becomes outsourced, inscribed on bodies that are different and that reside elsewhere. Surveillance thus occurs outside the nation in order to preempt any threat from entering the nation. She argues that this strategy of outsourcing relies on racialized, gendered, and heteronormative logics. This is one form of “outsourcing the border,” as Magnet (2012) would describe it. The state-imposed criteria as to who can enter the borders of the nation state are installed in source countries to deter those who cannot or will not “fit” into the country of destination. The outsourcing of surveillance then works in conjunction with the in-sourcing of surveillancethrough the provision of services and the sensitization of service providers who work with victims of honor killing. This, I would suggest, is surveillance with a small “s,” in contrast to Surveillance, which deploys state technologies to actively and overtly spy, contain, and discipline others (e.g., passport control).
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