December 12, 2007

Not about binaries Last night on the radio, I heard a woman, an academic and/or activist, someone giving a lecture, someone who had written a book, say that the worst problem in America was dehumanization. She explained all contemporary problems as repercussions of an ethics that excludes some from the human community. Her examples were the words "terrorists" and "illegal aliens." These terms, she claimed, make us fail to see how underneath "it all" we are really the same, part of one human family. This broadcast echoed some themes in one of the essays I recently read in a collection on so-called third way feminism--the big problem was binaries, us and them. And, I've just today read a blog post that not only criticizes bloggers for using binaries (us/them) but that classifies bloggers insofar as they use binaries. This leads to an oddly recursive argument insofar as it relies on a binary opposition between those who use binaries and those who do not. I don't find any of these views convincing. First, dehumanization is not the problem--inequality rooted in neoliberal capitalism is. Second, the Bush administration gets off on torturing and killing people. That's part of its power. It claims the right, the executive privilege, to decide which people to watch, arrest, imprison, torture, and kill. Doing all this to non-humans wouldn't provide quite the kick, nor would it hold those inside the Beltway in awe, inspiring them to give in. The terms "terrorists" and "illegal aliens" designate who can be killed. The...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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