Thursday, September 08, 2005


Can we then talk of insurgency?

Lenin (of the Tomb), in his post "Why was New Orleans turned into a war zone?", asks "what the fuck is all this 'insurgency' gibberish?" A spirited debate has ensued in the comments, about the nature of the contemporary state and its relation to violence. "I repeat and underscore 'there was no insurgency'", repeats and underscores lenin.

Elsewhere on the Tomb, in another post that caused a flurry of disagreement in the comments, BionOc's "Recipe for Lawlessness, Cajun-Style" gives us, not a denial of violence, but its rationalization: "Now, I'm not for a minute going to excuse those crimes. They are inexcusable. But I'm damned if I'm going to shy away from trying to understand them."

Within his tomb, Lenin must be slowly rotating.

It's the classical liberal response either to deny subaltern violence or to rationalize it away through "understanding." Indeed, BionOc pithily gives us the liberal view on criminality in nugatory form. Hate the sin, love the sinner.

It's also true, however, that all talk of violence is its rationalization, to some extent or another. All discourse defers the materiality of blood, sweat, and affect. It is all, in this sense, what Ranajit Guha terms "prose of counter-insurgency."

So can we talk of insurgency? No. But perhaps we can show how insurgency distorts and mangles language, surprises it and forces it into increasingly desperate ("I repeat and underscore") rearguard actions of denial, deferral, or denunciation. All insurgency talk is reduced to "gibberish."

On the one hand, everything is out in the open in these posthegemonic times. Little if anything is hidden. But that's not to say that language serves no function. Rather, on the other hand, it is that it is discourse's most basic function that is now evident: to mobilize affect, but also to damn it up, territorialize it in the classic double articulation familiar from all populisms. The point isn't the sense it does or doesn't make: of course it's "gibberish." Discourse now works directly with and on the body, deferring violence in the case of what once passed for socialism, or inciting it in the case of an increasingly naked neo-conservativism.

Simply two modes of counter-insurgency, prosaic mirrors of each other.

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