We start in the ruins of democratic law. These ruins are legal remainders of
past struggles against tyrannies and, as such, material for an archive of
Paul PASSAVANT Poli Sci @ Hobart and William Smith Colleges ’12 “Democracy’s ruins, democracy’s archive” in Reading Modern Law: Critical Methodologies and Sovereign Formations eds. Buchanan et al p. 49-50
Giorgio Agamben's work condemns sovereignty and aspires to found a new politics, or a 'coming community', beyond sovereignty and law. He describes sovereign power as determining, unitary, and absolute. This sovereign must be overcome by its equally absolute or all-encompassing other. This other to sovereignty has been conceptualized as pure potentiality, pure singularity, belonging itself, contingency, creativity, excess, or absolute democracy (Agamben 1993: 2, 67; Hardt and Negri 2000). I argue that Peter Fitzpatrick's work on sovereignty and law shows that absolute sovereignty is not capable of existing as such. Nor, for that matter, is absolute democracy capable of existing as such. 'Sovereignty' and 'democracy' are not absolutely opposed to each other. Instead, politics takes place in the torsion or these impossibilities. Many postmodernists today are allergic to anything with a whiff of sovereignty (Hardt and Negri 2000). Unfortunately, thishas the consequence of asking those with democratic sensibilities to give up on the project of popular sovereignty at the exact moment that the right in the United States is seeking to ruin democracy by asserting sovereign prerogatives under various theories of absolute and uncheckablepresidential powers.' We are faced, presently, with the ruins of a law opposed to uncheckedpresidentialism, torture, and camps.2 Fitzpatrick's attention to sovereignty's paradoxical requirements, and to its near-mythic reliance upon law for temporary resolution of these contradictory demands, teaches us that law, and hence democracy, is always vulnerable to ruin of this sort. Instead of sharing the hopes of messianic postmodernists for a final resolution to these challenges, Fitzpatrick indicates where we must begin our political labours: among democracy's ruins. These ruins are legal remaindersof past struggles against tyrannies and, as such, material for an archive of democratic remains. I contend that our political work should be mindful of law as democracy's archive. These reminders can help us to recollect the persistence necessary to take down or overcome tyrannies, to recall the fidelity necessary to keep a commitment to popular sovereignty. If we fail to labour on behalf of the future this archive anticipates, then the scriveners of George W. Bush's administration will continue to consign us to a dwelling among democracy's ruins.
We return to the failure of the American judiciary in the face of camps for incarcerating Issei and Nisei. Conservatives archive this story as an aberration in American policy, or as justifiable military necessity. Liberals teach it as a lesson in Japanese cultural stoicism (and the striving of a model minority).
Silence on the enduring trauma of America’s concentration camps continues the strategy of its organizers – that the spectacular display of war powers authority could shock the population into passive spectatorship.
Coverage by mass media, judicial oversight, and all the trappings of American democracy were brought to bear to emphasize the distinction between the U.S. and its totalitarian enemies. This process of threat construction is founded on racialized binaries
Emily ROXWORTHY Theatre @ UCSD ‘8The Spectacle of Japanese American Trauma: Racial Performativity in World War II p.1-6
After the closure of the World War II internment camps and the "relocation" of former internees to new postwar homes, many observed the remarkable silence and stoic rebounding with which most first- and second-generation Japanese Americans (Issei and Nisei) closed that chapter of their lives. It was this silence and stoicism that contributed in large part to their designation, along with other Asian Americans, as the "model minority." 3 Conservative critics claimed this apparent lack of bitterness as proof that the internment camps were not unjust after all, that even their former inmatestacitly approved the "military necessity" that stripped them of civil liberties and segregated them from their fellow Americans after the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor. Liberal scholars have mostly chalked up this stoic silence to a diasporic retention of the Japanese cultural logic of shikata ga nai, or "it can't be helped"- a fatalistic philosophy that negates the efficacy of resistance or other political action. Although silence has been used to justify and minimize the impact of the internment, outside this context the concept of silence circulates widely as a telltale symptom of trauma. Shoshana Felman resurrects Walter Benjamin's term "expressionless" (das Ausdruchslose) in order to describe "the silence of the persecuted, the unspeakability of the trauma of oppression" experienced by "those whom violence has deprived of expression; those who, on the one hand, have been historically reduced to silence, and who, on the other hand, have been historically made faceless, deprived of their human face " 4 This seems an apt judgment of how historical events left Japanese Americans silent and then the historiography of these events rendered this silenceexpressionless and inhuman, as epitomized in the stereotype of the automaton-like "model minority." Americans have allowed the symptoms of wartime injustice to stand as apology for the injuries themselves. So what if- instead- we reinterpret former internees' silence not as a culturally conditioned response to adversity but rather as the structural outgrowth of the particular trauma of this particular internment? I emphasize the structure of the internees' silence because the recent wave of trauma scholarship makes clear that traumatized responses cannot be wholly explained by the catalyzing event or by "a distortion of the event, achieving its haunting power as a result of distorting personal significances attached to it." Rather than some inherent atrociousness adhering to the event or some inherent psychosocial predisposition causing an individual or group to react in a certain way, trauma should be understood in structural terms. The pathology of trauma, Cathy Caruth insists, consists "solely in the structure of the experience or reception: the event is not assimilated or experienced fully at the time, but only belatedly, in its repeated possession of the one who experiences it. To be traumatized is precisely to be possessed by an image or event." 5 I emphasize the particularity of the Japanese American internment because those who have written on the trauma of this experience have, by and large, bypassed these structural aspects, instead comparing the internment event with other more widely recognized atrocitiessuch as the Nazi genocide of ]ews and other minorities, the experiences of U.S. soldiers during and after the Vietnam War, and generalized sexual abuse against women. By accessing Japanese American trauma through these other atrocities-none of which directly implicates the racist domestic policies of the U.S. government as the internment does-these "American concentration camps" inevitably find themselves subordinated once again in hierarchies of sufferingthat always privilege the point of comparison6 Such strategies of comparative analysis end up posing the internment as a debasedmimicry of unquestioned traumatic events. No genocide occurred against the Japanese American "evacuees" imprisoned in the "assembly centers" and "relocation centers," euphemistically named and controlled by the U.S. military's Wartime Civilian Control Agency (WCCA) and the U.S. government's War Relocation Authority (WRA), so when former internee Raymond Okamura wrote that "the linguistic deception fostered by the United States government" in regard to the internment "bears a striking resemblance to the propaganda techniques of the Third Reich," the comparison might have been instructive, but Japanese American trauma inevitably paled in comparison to the Holocaust.7 The material losses of $200 million in Japanese American property, homes, and businesses become profane concerns when juxtaposed with the Nazi genocide8 Likewise, Chalsa Loo recognized the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that plagued many former internees but only did so by discussing "parallels" with the symptoms of trauma widely associated with Vietnam War veterans who had witnessed, perpetrated, and suffered horrifying violence in Vietnam and returned home to find an American public that considered them "baby killers" and did not honor their military serviceY Although violent events did occur in many of the Japanese American camps and several internees were murdered both by U.S. soldiers guarding the camps and by fellow internees-and despite the fact that internees also experienced virulent prejudice and even violence when they returned to their prewar communities the scale of this emotional and physical violence cannot compete (nor should it have to) with the PTSD of Vietnam veterans. Another common trope is the metaphoric equation of the violation inflicted upon internees by their own government with the experience of rape; this analogizing to the suffering of rape victims is most often voiced by male scholars of the internment and by male former internees, but the comparison also emanates from Amy Uno Ishii's oft-quoted statement: "Women, if they've been raped, don't go around talking about it. ... This is exactly the kind of feeling that we as evacuees, victims of circumstances, had at the time of evacuation." 10 Since sexual abuse was not a systemic part of the camps, comparing the trauma of Japanese Americans to that of rape victims belittles the wartime internment and renders invisible the more subtle but no less insidious violations that made up the everyday lives of internees, such as the total lack of privacy that plagued every aspect of camp life, including toilet facilities, and the utter degradation resulting from assigning inmates numbers and lining them up in dehumanized masses for every conceivable purpose. In this book I posit the importance of understanding the structural trauma of the internment as located in the spectacularization imposed upon Japanese Americans by the U.S. government and mass media. Unlike the Holocaust, the evacuation and internment of Japanese Americans was perpetrated in full view of the public by capitalization upon the propaganda possibilities of the U.S. "free press." Unlike the abject treatment of Vietnam veterans, who were mostly drafted into war, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and WRA coerced Japanese Americans into "voluntary" participation with their abjection from the rest of society, demanding that they cooperate with authorities and put on a happy face for reporters and other visitors to the barbed-wire-encircled camps11 And unlike the sexist contract of victim-shaming that protects rapists, American politicians and pundits broadcast far and wide the violations enacted during the mass evacuation and internment, leveraging-for an audience at home as well as in the European and Pacific theatres of war-the supposedly benign captivity of ethnic japanese as absurd proof of U.S. racial tolerance and, at the same time, melodramatically posing these "suspect" Americans as antagonists against the many heroes and heroines of the American home front. By thus spectacularizing the disenfranchisement and imprisonment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans, the U.S.government and mass media denied the gravity of what was taking place and disavowed the psychological suffering and material violence perpetrated against a persecuted ethnic minority. Thankfully, much has been written about the fictitiousness of the "military necessity" placed around the evacuation and used to justify the internment of all West Coast japanese Americans, regardless of citizenship status, for the duration of U.S. hostilities withjapanY But in this book I argue that an equally seductive framing device justified the camps for the wartime American public and continues to be uncritically deployed by conservative analysts like Michelle Malkin in her recent book, In Defense of Internment. 13 By framing the evacuation and internment as spectacles, the United States positioned the American public as passive spectators to the unconstitutional treatment of their ethnic japanese neighbors and, simultaneously, cast the public as heroic "patriots" opposite Japanese Americans, who were cast in one of two thankless roles: expressionless automata or melodramatic villains. So in the case of the internment, theories of trauma and theories of spectacle intersect and converge. Both trauma and spectacle are haunted by visuality, a visual scene/seen that inscribes its image deeply within one's psyche precisely to the extent that it alienates the subject from any comprehension of the material underpinnings of the transpired event. 14 On the side of trauma, Shoshana Felman finds that "the unexpectedness of the original traumatizing scene" is replayed in the compulsive repetitions that characterize traumatic symptoms 5 On the side of spectacle, Guy Debord finds that the images offered up by commodity culture violently foreground the presence of the visual realm in order to absent spectators' awareness of their own exploitation and disenfranchisement under advanced capitalism. In his classic book, The Society of the Spectacle, Debord claims that "The spectacle's function in society is the concrete manufacture of alienation," and he describes the means of this alienation as precisely visual: "Understood on its own terms, the spectacle proclaims the predominance of appearances and asserts that all human life, which is to say all social life, is mere appearance." For Debord, "spectacle's essential character" consists in "a negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself." 16 The refuge taken in the visual as a means to negate life leads performance theorist Diana Taylor to warn of spectacle's potential as an arrangement of events that rewards passivespectatorship and denies the need for active witnessing. Writing of the terrifying political spectacles staged by the Argentine government during the Dirty War (1976-1983), Taylor claims that "The onlookers, like obedient spectators in a theatre, were encouraged to suspend their disbelief. Terror draws on the theatrical propensity simultaneously to bind the audience and to paralyze it. Theatrical convention allows for splitting of mind from body, enabling the audience to respond either emotionally or intellectually to the action it sees on stage without responding physically." 17 Likewise, the failure to respond physically on the part of both the onlooker and the victim-causes psychoanalyst Dori Laub to characterize trauma as a "collapse of witnessing." He defines the corrective to this visual refuge as an active listening; as Taylor points out, Laub defines the witness as a listener rather than a see-er, if only in the post-traumatic setting of psychoanalytic therapy or testimony-taking1 8 In addition to listening, the engaged witness refuses the visual refuge of spectacle by resisting the objectification of the other that characterizes spectacular images. As Caruth (as well as Felman) emphasizes, the mute isolation of trauma can be redressed only by engaging the other as a subject of address in order to witness how "history, like trauma, is never simply one's own, that history is precisely the way we are implicated in each other's traumas." 19 My theoretical intervention comes at this convergence of trauma and spectacle: the spectacular structure of the japanese American internment removed the public-as-spectator from any participation, empathy, implication, or complicity in the dramatic disenfranchisement of racialized citizens that was taking place in full view. The political spectacles staged by the U.S. government and broadcast by the American media framed the internment event in visual terms that objectified the Japanese American other within an economy of Debordian "mere appearance" that was based on a racialized understanding of Japan as a culture of artifice and surfaces20 But the most important sense in which the spectacle became the trauma of japanese Americans consisted in the demand placed on internees to comply with this spectacularization so as to provide "proof" of their loyalty to the United States-a command performance that actually prevented internees from fully processing the material violence enacted against them by the internment policy. Whether called upon to "voluntarily" relocate to internment camps under intense media scrutiny or, later, asked to offer their interned bodies (and those of their sons and brothers) up to military service on behalf of a nation that impugned their loyalty, many Japanese Americans found that the only way to prove the internment policy's baselessness was to comply with the terms of its spectacularization. Caruth's insights into trauma as a "missed" event (missed insofar as "the event is not assimilated or experienced fully at the time, but only belatedly") thus illumi- nate the experience of internees21 Japanese Americans "missed" the impact of their forced evacuation and imprisonment after Pearl Harbor because their persecution was staged-over and over again for the more than three years of the Pacific War-as a series of political spectacles that denied the psychological violence and material underpinnings of what was taking place. Every aspect of the U.S. government's (and its "fourth branch," the mass media's) framing of these events prevented those involved from fully grasping the injustice of what was taking place and from preparing to deal with a cataclysmic change. Caruth calls this aspect of trauma "the inability to fully witness the event as it occurs," so that the traumatic event carries within it "an inherent forgetting ." 22 The compulsion to forget was built into the government's overhasty institution of the internment policy from its first moments, as the U.S. military posted euphemistically devastating evacuation notices throughout West Coast communities. On these notices, "aliens and non-aliens" of Japanese descent were told to report to assembly stations, taking only what they could personally carry to the camps, sometimes with as little as forty-eight hours' notice. Not only were Japanese Americans rushed through the material and psychological processing of their forced evacuation as they quickly packed up their lives and boarded a bus or train to unknown destinations for an indeterminate duration, but the harsh glare of media attention and political rhetoric spectacularized the process in a way that encouraged fellow Americans to sit back and watch in passive awe and silence. Although trauma has been most easily associated with bodily injury, Caruth reminds us that in Freud's foundational Moses and Monotheism, the trauma "is first of all a trauma of leaving, the trauma of verlassen." 23 In their own forced leaving, Japanese American "evacuees," it should be clear, have a distinct claim on trauma.