Suffering Reps (ndi 2014)



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*** Suffering Reps (NDI 2014) ***

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1NC – the General

Representations of suffering otherizes the “sufferers” and steals their subjectivity; the law silences their voice and destroys their agency.


Mohr 10 (Richard, Director of the Legal Intersections Research Centre at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and Managing Editor of Law Text Culture, University of Wollongong, “Responsibility and the Representation of Suffering: Australian law in black and white”, Research Online, e-Cardanos CES, 7 123-146, accessed 7/26 //RJ)
Representational practices define and constitute the representative as well as the represented, in a dialectical process. Representation is a rich term with a long history that leaves traces in various related meanings (Pitkin, 1972). There are three main senses of the term to be explored here, which may be called political, legal and aesthetic forms of representation. When rulers are responsible to the ruled, they may be said to represent them, in a political sense. In the context of legal practice, we refer to lawyers representing their clients. And in the visual arts we say that a painting or photograph represents its subject. This aesthetic sense can also refer to media representations of people and events.

Hannah Arendt (1973: 75) pointed out that the new politics of the Jacobins after the French revolution derived legitimacy from their “capacity to suffer with the immense class of the poor”, accompanied by the will to raise compassion to the rank of the supreme political passion and the highest political virtue. This new source of legitimacy replaced other forms of representation, displacing the republic and forms of government (under the Girondins) by the Jacobins’ invocation of “le peuple, les malheureux”, in Robespierre’s coupling of the concepts. The continuing appeal of the Jacobin formula in French political rhetoric was seen in the 2007 Presidential election, when both Nicholas Sarkozy and Segolène Royal dedicated their campaigns to “la France qui souffre” (Renault, 2008: 151).



In political and legal discourse suffering is reconstructed from an experience of pain or deprivation into a relationship, and this is notably a relationship between those who suffer and those who do not. Renault (2008: 376) reports on Veena Das’s analysis of reactions to the Bhopal disaster in India, which found that legitimating tropes of legal discourse detached suffering from the victims. The discourse of suffering “was used to reduce those who suffered to silence”, while the negotiations and construction of events, including that of the suffering itself, were commandeered by politicians and lawyers. The emphasis here is on the victims of suffering, while the legal mechanisms are shown to have deprived them of a voice.

Images of suffering typically portray the sufferer as the other, as distanced from “us” the responsible, the actively viewing subject. In a series of photographs by Pierre Gonnord reproduced in El País under the heading “El silencio de los marginados” (García, 2008), the mute, closed faces of the marginalised are in contrast to the outgoing, engaging presence of the photographer himself, depicted by a newspaper photographer.

The representation of suffering forms an essential component in that political economy of suffering that involves domination, désaffiliation and dispossession. On one hand, suffering is constituted as a salient political phenomenon by artistic, media and political representations. On the other hand, responses to suffering are framed by representations of the suffering subject and its converse, the responsible subject. Where suffering is represented as silence, the role of those responsible becomes to represent, to speak for, and, finally, to act for the sufferers. The media, politicians and lawyers play these roles with professional zeal. In the meantime, responsibility for one’s own actions and legal liability for specific injustices and the spoils of dispossession are washed away by the tide of a reimagined history, dispersal of collective responsibilities and the re- presentation of suffering embodied in those who suffer.

The aff’s depictions of suffering can never be objective nor benign; the law commodifies the subjects of suffering to create a permanent state of exception, where the law is suspended and militarism becomes normalized.


Mohr 10 (Richard, Director of the Legal Intersections Research Centre at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and Managing Editor of Law Text Culture, University of Wollongong, “Responsibility and the Representation of Suffering: Australian law in black and white”, Research Online, e-Cardanos CES, 7 123-146, accessed 7/26 //RJ)
Suffering, no matter how “objective” its conditions, cannot be understood in isolation from its broader social and cultural milieu. It has been noted, above, that the social aspects of suffering indicate that people do not suffer simply as a result of some natural condition. Their suffering has social origins and causes, and its very construction as suffering has important consequences for the way it is experienced and the frame within which solutions may be sought. The concluding sections of this article explore ways in which the theoretical analysis with which it began may be applied to understanding, reimagining and responding to the suffering of Indigenous Australians. I turn first to questions of representations of suffering to see how these constitute subjects who suffer, before dealing with questions of responsibility.

In earlier discussion it was noted that representation in all three of its forms – aesthetic, political and legal – may actually compound suffering and render the sufferers more powerless. Mute suffering is a powerful photographic trope, identified in the work of Pierre Gonnord (García, 2008) and also familiar from television reports of famines and disasters, and advertisements for aid agencies. The trope is active in depictions of



Aboriginal Australians. An archival photograph on the cover of a leading Australian newspaper’s weekend magazine section (Good Weekend, 2009) on the anniversary of the Prime Minister’s apology showed a tribal Aboriginal couple in a classic pose of powerlessness and mute suffering. The headline read “Lest we forget”, using the motto familiar from invocations to remember the war dead, thus referring back to the genocidal imaginary of an earlier age, in which the demise of the Aboriginal race was assumed, and the role of the “white man” was to “ease the dying pillow” (Dodson et al., 2006). While ostensibly reminding us of injustice or of its redress through the Apology, the subjects of suffering are silenced, symbolically “killed” by the unmistakable reference to remembrance and fallen soldiers. These constructions of suffering represent the suffering subject in two senses: as an aesthetic and moral image, and as a silent subject who is in need of representation: by a photographer, a politician, or a lawyer.

Representation in these multiple senses came together with devastating impact in Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory in 2007 following the release of the Little Children are Sacred report on child abuse. The “emergency response”, described above, was justified by the horrifying images of widespread Aboriginal child abuse that were talked up by the government. The image of suffering was used to justify the suspension of law. Renault (2008: 31) reports Nancy Scheper-Hughes’s analysis of the same tactic in Brazil.

She has particularly described the way in which the violence and dehumanisation in the favelas constitute not only factors aggravating social suffering inside these social exclusion zones, but also arguments to justify armed violence exercised against their inhabitants by the rest of society (unlimited police repression, death squads, etc).

The constitution of suffering as a social pathology going beyond the experience or comprehension of those who do not suffer constructs the sufferers in a zone of biopolitics where police repression, military intervention and extra-judicial killings are justified as the exception to the law. The Australian government was quite explicit in making this link: the suffering constituted grounds for an emergency response that justified the suspension of law. In the first instance the terminology of a state of emergency (Agamben, 2005) was used to suspend the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act. After its promise at the 2007 election to apply the Act to the intervention, it took the new Labor government two years to transmute emergency powers into “special measures”, and other devices described above, to maintain the operation of the intervention while shielding them from legal appeals on the grounds of racism. With the pretext of protecting suffering children and women, successive governments have deprived whole communities of their rights to property and to legal protection from racial discrimination. The representation of suffering Aboriginal people has been used to constitute them as a biopolitical substratum, unworthy of the legal protections afforded citizens as fully-fledged political subjects.

We must refuse the commodification of injury and suffering, and along with it, the politics of liberalism. Nothing short of total abstinence of liberal ethics, politics, and episteme can actualize change. Instead of ignoring violence or suffering, we simply reject the representations that juxtaposition life against suffering; instead of wishing away violence or suffering, our alternative allows for new forms of experience and sensuous life.


Abbas 10 (Asma, Professor and Division Head in Social Studies, Political Science, Philosophy at the Liebowitz Center for International Studies, “Liberalism and Human Suffering: Materialist Reflections on Politics, Ethics, and Aesthetics,” Palgrave Macmillion, RJ)
In Martha Nussbaum’s celebration of cosmopolitanism, the familiar move of the invocation of the worst sufferings of mankind is bound to shut up and line everyone else in submission, not to the pain of others (as it may appear), but more fundamentally to iterations of who I am as one who suffers, as one who responds to suffering, and as one troubled by each of those questions rather than having settled them.47 Nussbaum or Shklar, in their philosophical commitments to differ- ent metaphysics (even in explicit noncommitments to metaphysics), do not even consider that their invocation of events of unimaginable suffering as cautionary tales for all of humanity is beholden to the sub- lime in ways complicit with liberalism’s political economy of suffering. In being so, they inadvertently evacuate the political in favor of some formalistic ethical certitude that may carry its own violent oblitera- tions, dysfunctionalizing political judgment in submission to ethical judgments already made for us. The ethicization of discourse on suf- fering, and the submission to the violence of violence, is a parallel to the death of the political. Similarly, as long as the aesthetic follows this logic—that representation is unethical and violent in nature and that we must somehow leave it behind—it will be limited in its vision, unable to see the deep and necessary ontological connection between suffering and representation. Beyond considering aesthetics at play in the artistry of rights and interests that privileges the Western scopic and rhetoricist regimes, the aesthetic must be seen as more closely derived from aisthesis (perception from the senses). The resulting essential, ontic, and experiential proximity to suffering may allow us to radically reimagine our subjection to injuries, interests, and rights.

The elements of a historical materialism of suffering introduced over the course of this chapter—necessity, hope, and a materialist sensuous ethos—reconsider woundedness and victimhood in order to illuminate the multiplicity of relations that are, and can be, had to our own and others’ suffering. They expose the presumptions and certainties regarding the imperatives suffering poses for sufferers that codify a basic distance from suffering and an inability to insinuate the question of suffering in our comportments, orientations, and internal relations of simultaneity to the world.

A righteous or tolerant pluralism of sufferings, enacted wounds, and relations to our own and others’ suffering is not my objective here. One only has to consider, to build to a different end, how the judgments, actions, and reactions of many among us cannot help but reject consolations that come from codified knowledges and certi- tudes, such as those pertaining to what suffering is, how we must despise it, and how we must fix it. Then, one only has to question the imperatives these knowledges and certitudes pose for all of us, and examine the utilitarian charm of the beguiling tragedy of “powerless” institutions and other conscriptions of sympathy, empathy, voice, and desire for a markedly different world. This may involve not giving lib- eral institutions or fervent recruiters of various marginalities the power to set the terms of honoring the suffering and hope of others, and not giving them the power to corner our pathos, in a moment of ethical noblesse, by emphasizing how another’s suffering is impenetrable and unknowable. As much as this ethical noblesse upholds the letting be of the other, it is a preservation, first and foremost, of oneself—per- versely reminiscent of the confusing touch-me-not of the Christ back from the dead, a Christ whose triumph over death ironically inspires entire cultures built on surplus fear, suffering, and death as offerings for those with terminal senses but endless lives (often the courtesy of the same historical cryogenics). It is imperative to reject both the righteous or tolerant pluralism of sufferings and the touch-me-not version of seemingly other-centered politics in favor of seeing our sufferings and our labors as coconstitutive of the world we inhabit.

What would it mean, as Louis puts it to the Rabbi, to “incorpo- rate sickness into one’s sense of how things are supposed to go,” to convoke a politics that is “good with death” but asks for “more life”? Perhaps the sufferer not be incidental to the suffering when suffering is defined as a problem only in the terms we can pretend to solve, only to fail at that, too. Perhaps liberal politics should accept that sta- tistics of diseases, mortalities, and morbidities, calculated in terms of the loss in human productivity, on the one hand, and those of prison populations and philanthropic gifts, on the other, are not graceful confessions of its mastery of suffering or death. It is not that there are no sufferings to be named, interpreted, and tended to. However, it is important to remember that this is not a random, altruistic, or unme- diated process, and it benefits those with the agency and position to act on another’s suffering. Perhaps politics should be able to speak to, and for, the reserve army of those with abject, yet-to-be-inter- preted-and-recompensed sufferings, and those who have no ability to be injured outside of the terms native to liberal capitalist discourse. Perhaps politics can diverge from its reliance on certain frames of suf- fering in order to address the ubiquity and ordinariness of human tragedy and suffering. Perhaps, still, if politics is concerned with the creation and maintenance of forms of life, then the activities of this making, when they negotiate with the past, present, and future, necessitate a look at the way old and new wounds are enacted in order to yield forms that are different.

Ultimately, perhaps liberalism’s colonization of suffering, and its moral dominion over it, needs to be resisted and loosened. Questioning the forms in which we suffer and are told to do so is not the same as altogether questioning the reality or centrality of suffering and our responsibility to it. The ways in which we suffer tell us what we need and do not need, what our bodies can and cannot bear. Politics must be pushed to engineer the passing of certain forms of suffering, not the passing of suffering altogether.

The claim to having nailed the problem of suffering becomes sus- pect when politics learns from suffering not via the question of justice but, more immediately, as it responds to the suffering that is life; when it is urgent to understand those ways of suffering that do not follow liberal logics; when attending to bodies who suffer, remember, and act out of their wounds differently is extremely necessary; when the question of the suffering of action is inseparable from the actions of the suffering; when our experience of the world and its ethical, politi- cal, and aesthetic moments is not prior to or outside of justice, but constitutive of it; and when the need to understand necessity, the lack of choice, and the ordinariness of tragedy is part of the same story as the clumsiness of our responses to grand disaster.

This is an offering toward a politics that is not modeled on the liberal, capitalist, and colonizing ideals of healthy agents who are asked to live diametrically across from the pole of victimhood. Such an approach would factor in the material experiences of destruction, tragedy, violence, defeat, wounds, memory, hope, and survival that risk obliteration even by many well-meaning victim-centered politics. The imagining of such a politics is not merely premised on suf- fering as something to be undone. Rather, it holds on to the ability to suffer as something to be striven for, grasped anew, and salvaged from the arbitrary dissipations imposed on it by global powers who not only refuse to take responsibility for the plight that they have every role in creating and locating but also shamelessly arbitrate how the wounded can make their suffering matter.

Modern schemes for solving the problem of human suffering succumb to their own hubris, even as they set the terms of joy and sorrow, love and death, life and hope, salvation and freedom, that those subject to these schemes ought to have a role in determining. Maybe these schemes have no relevance to those who suffer abjectly, or maybe the latter have lost their senses living among the dead who tyrannize us and the dead who beseech us. It is time that we confront the nau- seating exploitations and self-affirming decrepitude of Western liberal capitalist arbitrations of where suffering must live and where it must die—these moralities keep themselves alive and ascendant by always invoking their choice exceptions, fixating on those marginal relations to suffering and life signified in the savage acts of, say blowing up one’s own and others’ bodies, often regarded as savage for no other reason than their violation of some silly rational choice maxim. There are many other exceptions that confront these dominations, not the least of which are the forms of acculturations, past and present, that see the realm of ethics as deeper and richer than the space of individual moralities acted out. Similarly, some of these exceptions to learn from hold and honor suffering as an inherently social act, as a welcome burden to carry with and for each other. If it is indeed the case that the world is so because the colonized have not stopped regurgitating, then the incipient fascisms in the metropoles today ought to make us wonder whether our problem as people of this world is not that there is not enough liberalism, but that, at best, liberalism is insufficient, and, at worst, it is complicit. Perhaps the majority of the world needs a politics that is material enough to speak to, and with, their silences, their pain, their losses, their defeats, their victories, their dispensabili- ties, their mutilations, their self-injuries, their fidelities, their betrayals, their memories, their justice, their humor, and their hope. At stake in such an imagining is nothing less than the possibility of newer forms of joy, desire, hope, and life itself.



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