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Hands Up Don’t Shoot:
Collected Essays/Stories on the Racialization of Murder
Co-edited by: Stanley Doyle-Wood, Bedour Alagraa , and Gurpreet Singh Johal
*Revised Call for Papers*
Our primary intent in this collection of essays is to examine and make visible the role of individual and mass murder in the political calculus of racial control, containment and order in modern nation-state formations. We conceptualize murder as an everyday death impacting the racialized body as a collective at the level of the physical, the physiological, the psychological, the social and the spirit.
In the opening pages of Towards the African Revolution (1967, pp4-5) Frantz Fanon recounts the case of an Arab patient who wanders into the psychiatric ward of an Algiers hospital under French colonial occupation. The man thinks he is going to die, despite not showing any lesions or physical trauma:
“What’s wrong, my friend?”
“I’m dying, monsieur le docteur.”
“Where does it hurt?”
“In my belly.” (He then points to his thorax and abdomen).
“When does it hurt?”
“All the time.”
This passage in which the Arab patient explains his mental and physical anguish was, in part, a revelation about the pathologization of the racial Other and an indictment of the asymmetries in medical care in occupied Algiers. More importantly, it illuminated the emotional and physical agony produced by constant negotiations between the Other and death itself. For those marked with the extra-existential threshold of Otherness, death itself is the ultimate power of the nation-state in managing a violent racial order. This consists of forms of governmentality, policies, socio-histories, and architechtonics that subject the Other [racialized and/or Indigenous] to the power of death above all else. This is conducted most often through the demarcation of a purified, whole, body politic and a surplus ‘other’ population fit only for labour, consumption, and ultimately destruction.
In its primary role as torturer and executioner, the nation-state deploys many latent and manifest technologies that ultimately lead to material, psychological and symbolic deaths alike. In addition to overt forms of violence and murder, the nation-state murders the racialized Other in subtle and insidious ways. These include the erasure of histories, denial of humanity itself, epistemic violence and death, and relegating the racial Other to a liminal economic, social and political space where death is no longer extraordinary, and where death serves as one of the main organizing principles of the nation-state. As such, we can understand the racialization of murder as a fundamental part of racial ordering. Labeling lives as worthy of life and others for destruction and murder forces us to ask important questions about who lives, who dies, and what processes of dehumanization allowed for the murder and state delivered homicides of Emmett Till, Michael Brown, Kajiema Powell, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Jordan Davis, Balbir Singh Sodhi, Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin, Stephen Lawrence, Mark Duggan, Duane Christian, Sammy Yatim, Alwy Al Nadhir, Alain Magloire, Firsat Dag, Cynthia Jarret, Reena Virk, Mia Henderson, Zoraida Reyes, Helen Betty Osborne, Renisha McBride Yaz’min Shancez, Tiff Edwards, Loretta Saunders, Shaima Alawadi and many others. In addition, what material and discursive processes/practices allowed/allows for the dehumanizing physio/psychological spirit murder of individuals such as Omar Khadra and other Guantanamo detainees and survivors etc. This project will serve as a locus for inquiry about the poetics of racial violence, particularly murder. What are the structural, symbolic, and socio-historical causes of murder within these multi-layered contexts for racialized bodies, and how can we understand the occurrence of racist murders within the broader context of ongoing and multiple deaths, both ‘extraordinary’ and banal in nature? What wider connections are to be made between the murders of individuals such as Michael Brown, the racialized assault and containment of racialized people’s resistance and the experiences of racialized and Indigenous communities at the hands of settler colonial violence in spaces such as Gaza, or Elsipogtog First Nation, etc?
We hope to explore the important nexus between individual murder and state sponsored murder. This project aims to provoke a radical and incendiary discussion of the intersectionalized biopolitics of racial presence and resistance, and to underscore the threat that racialized bodies pose to the nation-state merely by breathing, by existing. For example trans women of colour in particular are faced with murderous terroristic violence on a daily basis at the physical, psychological and spiritual level simply as a fundamental aspect of being. Our goal is to historicize murder as a political object/tool, and understand the daily, multiple deaths that racialized bodies incur as part of the imperatives of the nation-state and racial ordering therein. In addition, this project aims to disturb the conventional view of murder as both ordinary and extraordinary, and highlight how the banality of racialized murder is indicative of a broader project of state sanctioned murder deployed in order to affirm the relative positions of racialized and dominant bodies within a rigidly defined and policed racial order. We ask: what are the signs that colourize and racialize folks of colour? What other signs and symbols [hoodies, hip-hop, hijabs, etc] mark, racialize and colourize peoples for death? What structural or symbolic acts of violence killed Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Balbir Singh Sodhi, Alain Magloire, Zoraida Reyes, Naima Rharouity, or Shaima Alawadi? How many times and in what forms can an individual racialized body be killed/murdered? We hope to illuminate the manifest and latent reproductions of murder including the symbolic, structural, psychological and corporeal murders that racialized folks experience daily, nightly, constantly.
This project will also provide a space for inquiry about the links between targeted individual and mass murder alike. For example, what connects the massacre of Oak Creek to the racist vigilantism of George Zimmerman? In asking this question, we hope to interrogate the ways in which people of colour are racialized and coded for murder and destruction at both individual and group levels. We hope to understand the necessary contribution of state sanctioned physical and symbolic violence towards the murder of Trayvon Martin, the massacre at Oak Creek, and the targeting of Indigenous communities, particularly women in ongoing projects of exclusion, death, and infrahumanity.
Finally, we offer this project as a space for acknowledging and buttressing important, ongoing acts of resistance to violence and murder. Who speaks back to murder? How do Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Yaz’min Shancez and others speak back to murder? How did/does Emmett Till speak back to the violent state that was accomplice to his murder? How can we support these bodies both awake and dead in speaking back as an act of spiritual and political resistance in the face of ongoing murders and the threat of death?
This exploration will rely on a number of different methods–we encourage
analyses of imagery/iconography, hermeneutics, poetry, personal
reflections/essays, and interviews. Final essay submissions should be no longer than 5,000
words and should include appropriate credits and citations (APA for academic essay submissions). We also encourage submissions in the form of poetry, print/media (including original art and photography), short stories, opinion pieces, and personal essays. For essays/stories etc please submit initially a 250-500 word abstract, and/or in the case of poetry/visual artwork etc, send via attachment no later than October 1st, 2014 to email@example.com.
Stanley Doyle-Wood, Bedour Alagraa, Gurpreet Johal.
Dr. Stanley Doyle-Wood Ph.D
Dept of Equity Studies
New College, University of Toronto
The Transitional Year Program
123 St George Street
University of Toronto
Toronto on m5s 2e5
Voice: 416 978 4532