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  4. The Limits of Civil Disobedience in Hong Kong

Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. In Civil Disobedience and the Politics of Identity, Jason Hill attempts to apply general cosmopolitan humanist moral intuitions and democratic political beliefs to certain clearly perceived wrongs that have otherwise been ignored, by providing criteria for when it is necessary to break the peace and become a moral insurrectionist.

Hill identifies precisely what we should n In Civil Disobedience and the Politics of Identity, Jason Hill attempts to apply general cosmopolitan humanist moral intuitions and democratic political beliefs to certain clearly perceived wrongs that have otherwise been ignored, by providing criteria for when it is necessary to break the peace and become a moral insurrectionist.

Hill identifies precisely what we should not get along with: the Islamic burka, the anti-gay marriage movement, anti-assimilationism and xenophobia, and multiculturalism and the politics of identity for the collusion with cultural, racial, and ethnic apartheid. At the end of each chapter Hill provides a comprehensive and sweeping antidote to each of the political and moral maladies he identifies as contentious norms, mores, and institutional phenomena no civilized society should get along with.

Provocative and accessible, Civil Disobedience and the Politics of Identity is critical reading for scholars of political theory, social philosophy, and ethics. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. Published July 11th by Palgrave Macmillan first published May 22nd More Details Other Editions 1.

Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Civil Disobedience and the Politics of Identity , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about Civil Disobedience and the Politics of Identity. The rioters did not make public statements about their motives and were not represented by spokespeople who addressed the press. Without intentionally communicated vision or goals the riots were easily perceived as a haphazard, mindless provocation.

Some, including the Mayor of The Hague, indicated the Ramadan and the outdoors heat as causes of the disruptive events [17]. Due to these factors young Muslim people in the neighborhood seemed to be on edge, looking for excitement as soon as the sun set. However, others who themselves had participated strongly linked the riots to unequal opportunities and other experiences of unequal treatment by the authorities. On radio channel FunX, Yusuf said that after the riots he felt relief from his stress about the many times he was stopped and rudely treated by the police for only being a young brown man driving a nice car.

Sky said that he wanted to target the government and that the death of Mitch Henriquez was not even on his mind when he joined the rioters [18]. These statements indicate that the initial tragic event became a pretext for expressing a variety of latent frustrations. Large numbers of young people from outside of the neighborhood became involved in the disturbances. The violence seemed to be motivated by a variety of incentives, ranging from rage about regular confrontations with racism and discrimination, to the pleasure of breaking the power monopoly of the police in the public domain, or the personal opportunism of obtaining material goods which are completely out of reach under normal circumstances.

They are not listening. Once a white man, always a white man. We have to fight for our rights. According to Kokoreff, the violence of riots has two dimensions: an expressive dimension and an instrumental dimension. The expressive dimension reflects the feeling that the use of violence is the only way to convey discontent and to be heard by those in power, while the instrumental dimension reflects the wish to make the state and other public services aware of the basic resources that the adolescents involved lack in their lives Kokoreff , It is both the rage about exclusion and the desire for emancipation that inspire riots.

In this sense, the riots can be seen as a desperate act to make the state and the general public aware of the grievances of young people in marginalized positions. This brings the famous Martin Luther King Jr. However, the state is not inclined to listen. The fact that riots are not readily recognized as political events is emphasized by the reaction of state representatives, who are primarily focused on the maintenance of public order and deny responsibility for the root causes of the disturbances Lamble Authorities offer a representation of the events as a certain state of exception that can only be rightly dealt with by effective risk-management and a repressive practice of policing.

As a consequence, the events tend to be understood not in relation to, but in opposition to society as lawless deeds, inspired by personal frustrations or desires of abnormal young people who do not know how to behave like good citizens. This attitude of state officials enforces the perceived lack of representation in mechanisms of institutional politics of the young people involved. In all cases violence erupted after a confrontation with fatal consequences took place between the police and a man of color [21]. The police initially refused to take responsibility for the events.

In The Hague, the police announced that Mitch Hernandez had been fine before entering the police van, and had become unwell during transportation. However, video footage emerged showing that a group of officers held Hernandez in a choke-hold before dragging him into the van while he was already unconscious. Secondly, when peaceful protests started, representatives from the institutional domain showed a lack of recognition for the grief of those surrounding the victim, and a lack of respect for those expressing their frustration and discontent regarding the events [23]. In The Hague the first violent skirmishes took place in front of the police station Heemstraat in de Schilderswijk, when demonstrators felt they were not sufficiently and seriously addressed by the police [24].

Other state representatives added fuel to the fire by failing to recognize the frustrations leading up to the riots, and primarily focusing on the rioters as criminals. In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the rioters achterlijke gladiolen retarded knuckleheads and seemed to be more upset by the destruction of property in the neighborhood than by the death of Mitch Henriquez [25].

He explicitly stressed that the riots were a matter of gang culture and not of poverty, discrimination or unequal social opportunities. These statements indicate that the riots are not seen as an aspect of the social dynamics within society, but as a threatening destabilization of society by those who do not merit to be seen as fellow citizens.

The riots are framed as originating from a deviant street culture which generally threatens the public sphere in Western European cities [28] Decker and Weerman, , while possible political motives are not acknowledged. Frustrations in relation to discrimination, ethnic profiling, poverty and isolation are not recognized as valid incentives underlying the disruptive events and are consequentially not seen as issues of injustice and inequality which could be tackled in the political arena.

Hence, the rioters seem to be alien aggressors, affecting society from the outside.

Politicians deny having a relation with these troublemakers, let alone take responsibility for addressing their grievances. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he did not see the need to visit the Schilderswijk to engage in a conversation with the rioters because he considered them fools causing a scene [29].

This street culture seems to collide with the dominant, civil culture in society Van Strijen, and seems to be devoid of any socio-political awareness. As a consequence of this dichotomy young rioters are easily placed outside of the moral structure and political rules of society. They are not recognized as political agents because their actions seem to lack a clear political goal and a strategy aimed at constructive and effective alternatives.

This depoliticization of the riots becomes possible when political participation is defined within an institutional context. One acts politically if one either remains within the framework of political institutions by the practice of voting or membership of a political party, or if one aims to deliberately reform this framework of political institutions, by adopting social movement strategies such as demonstrations and strikes. The actions of young rioters do not fit in with this representation of politics.

I wish to contest this exclusion from the domain of citizenship and politics of young urban troublemakers, by stating that their disruptive interventions in urban space can be seen as a form of unruly political agency Kaulingfreks In the act of rioting, marginalized young people can make themselves visible as citizens who are not sufficiently represented in the formal practice of politics.

Their disruptive actions therefore have a political sense, even if they express themselves in unconventional ways, even if they operate outside of the domain of the law and even if they do not share a dominant culture, which is imagined as the foundation of good citizenship. Before I take a closer look at rioting as a form of unruly political agency, it is important to indicate that the events are often interpreted as non-political or pre-political because the people involved are not recognized or represented within the political domain.

DePaul Professor’s Pro-Israel, Anti-Palestinian Views Condemned by Faculty

Various analyses of the French riots of can serve as an example here, in which the lack of political agency of those involved is emphasized, exactly because they are positioned at such a distance from institutional politics. According to French anthropologist Alain Bertho, riots in general can be seen as an enraged and frustrated reaction to the painful distance between an officially recognized political discourse and the complicated social reality in which people living in precarious circumstances find themselves Riots thus indicate a profound rupture between the political domain of the state and the desire for political recognition of the people.

Robert Castel equally states that riots in which youth from the French banlieues are involved can be seen as a desperate call for attention of those who are not recognized as full citizens in possession of political agency Castel The rioters cannot be political agents, because of their exclusion. Peter Sloterdijk explicitly looks at the Parisian riots in and states that a lack in the political system was painfully presented, but no political agenda was established.

No political parties took up the task to convert the violent and destructive energy of the riots into a constructive political strategy Sloterdijk , For Sloterdijk, the demonstration of a lack in the existing political order has no political meaning in itself. It is only in a profitable operationalization for actual and effective change that the violent expression of anger and frustration can make sense. He therefore makes a distinction between useless, and thus senseless, violence and the profitable operationalization of violence for a higher goal. The floating subject is not capable of translating his or her social demands into actions, which make sense within a socio-political frame of reference.

What makes it not yet political is its singularity, the lack of connections with other groups in society which suffer from similar injustices and mechanisms of exclusion. Alain Badiou analyzes the London riots of in a similar vein. Immediate riots are too premature to hold a political significance, because of their lack of organization and focus. Badiou reserves political meaning for events which lead to intentionally organized, militant uprisings.

Such uprisings require a strong ideological proposition, around which the masses can be mobilized, and a strong political organization, which follows the initial events. The aim of such fictions is to separate groups of people with differently ascribed identities from the generic collective of the people, who could act affirmatively together ibid. In addition, the locality of the riots cannot transcend into a larger movement of uprising, which also appeals to people who are of a completely different identity and social status to that of the instigators.

Within these reflections on the riots it is assumed that in order to act politically, a certain political subject intentionally applies violent measures in order to reach a predetermined goal. The distinction between senseless violence, which stands alone, and purposive violence as a means to an end can be inscribed in a more general analysis of the political meaning of public, violent agency.

Discussions of the political meaning of violence are often understood in a relational setting between means and ends, revolving around the question of the legitimacy of an instrumental use of violence in light of a higher political goal [31]. The central question here is whether violence can be legitimized as a temporary tool to be used in the project of the creation of a better, more equal and more just world, in which the very violence itself can later be completely abolished Welten Violence appears to be senseless if it has no clear instrumental value in relation to an external, recognizable goal.

Autotelic violence is pure and immediate since it is not focused on anything other than its own performance Schinkel , While a form of violence which is purely autotelic is hard to imagine, every kind of violence is at least partially inspired by a certain attraction to violence itself and is therefore partly autotelic. Cases of urban violence can easily be seen as examples of autotelic — and therefore senseless — violence because of their sudden, unpredictable appearance, irrational development and lack of clear focus.

It is the random element of destruction and also the apparent enjoyment of the violence by its instigators which makes them an ideal cause for moral panic amongst the general public Schinkel , Cohen The fact that urban riots seem to defy all laws imaginable, even those of militant strategies, makes them intensely threatening. The general public cannot understand the motivation underlying the riots and is shaken by its effects.

The shock effect and singularity of riots could also be interpreted differently, if we perceive them not as expressions of a traditional political conscience Belhaj Kacem However, the fact that they cannot be inscribed in a political strategy which is generally understood to be rational and constructive, does not make them politically insignificant.

Civil Disobedience

Their actions are testimonies of precisely those aspects of the political system that do not work, at least not for them. As far as explicit claims can be read in acts of rioting, such events allude to something that is radically missing. This is a fundamentally different mode of expression than that of an organized political insurrection.

Slavoj Zizek emphasizes that this inoperativeness of riots is not devoid of political significance, even though we cannot inscribe this significance in a traditional framework of emancipatory political agency. No realistic alternatives were proposed for experienced injustices; only an uneasy feeling of resentment without explanation was transmitted. The disorder which riots imply seem senseless from an organized perspective on politics, but make political sense if we look at them as a violent condemnation of an order which has become unacceptable because of the injustices it produces.

The perceived senselessness of riots is caused here by a lack of recognition for the less visible systemic violence against which it is opposed. Instead, politics begins where the exercise of power is interrupted, and the orderly organization of society is disturbed, in the name of those who are excluded from that organization. As Douzinas states, Ranciere places the excluded at the heart of politics Douzinas , Politics should therefore not be sought in the domain of ruling institutions, but rather on the level of disruptive interactions between people without any status and those ruling institutions.

He explicitly focuses on the role that marginalized groups, which are not recognized as taking part in any existing political process, can play in the emergence of a new, political evocation of equality. This kind of radical disagreement involves not only situations in which the language used by a party is not recognized as meaningful language, but also — and even more often — situations in which the very existence of a group of people is not recognized as the existence of a meaningful part of society.

This happens not only because they are not taken seriously as actors in the public domain, but because their utterances, whether linguistic or not, are not recognized as having any meaning at all Hewlett , This happens, for example, when expressions of certain people are not recognized as meaningful in the public domain, because they are confined to another domain. An example would be the situation in which rebellious young people are confined to the domain of street culture, which is seen as detached from the domain of civic culture.

The act of disruption in itself gains political significance. When people stand up to declare their own equality to others, and also if they do not conform to dominant norms of good citizenship, this is an act of political subjectification, according to Ranciere. Because politics as disagreement causes a sudden awareness of the equal presence of certain excluded groups, its emergence is always simultaneously embedded within a particular situation, and causes a deregulatory effect within that situation.

I propose to understand the riots here discussed as events of unruly politics, because in these cases the disruption of the political order is explicitly subversive, violent, and law transgressing [32]. The perceived senselessly violent nature of the events and the perceived incivility of those involved indicate how much unruly politics can differ from accepted forms of political agency.

It defies the boundaries of dominant rules. Rioters take the law into their own hands, when the existing laws no longer correspond with the principle of justice as they perceive it.

Civil Disobedience And The Politics Of Identity: When We Should Not Ge –

However, even though riots and other cases of urban violence manifest themselves outside of the ruling legal order, they do not lack every relation to the law. Such violent events emerge out of a discontentment with — and therefore a direct engagement with — that legal order, rather than a complete detachment from that legal order. Unruly politics does not spring out of nowhere.

It might be the only option left, if disadvantaged groups feel that their moral outrage about their situation is not shared by the general public, and if laws and institutions represent only a narrow sense of justice, serving the interests of certain privileged groups in society Shelby , In the uncomfortable and disruptive act of street disturbances and rioting, it becomes apparent who is excluded from the political game, as it is played in the conventional way.


Young rioters often do not feel that they are part of the system of political representation at all. This feeling of exclusion can become a legitimation for rebellious young people to design their own rules of the game. To sum it up: Unruly politics is a name for describing the interventions of those who disrupt the framework of institutional power relations, because they are in a position which leaves them no other option for influencing the organization of society other than to disrupt the status quo, which does not represent their needs.

It is a practice of politics that would not make any political sense if we were to define politics only within the limits of the institutional political game. Unruly politics, as we define it, is political action by people who have been denied voice by the rules of the political game, and by the social rules that underpin this game. This preoccupation with social justice distinguishes these forms of political action from the banditry or gang violence with which threatened autocrats wilfully try to associate them.

Khanna et al. Expressions of unruly politics do not allow themselves be translated into the language of negotiated demands and interests, within a setting of parliamentary mechanisms Khanna et al. They do not abide by the logics of representative politics, but rather enunciate a political meaning which is unmediated, which does not let itself be represented or translated in another context, in another moment or for the benefit of other people. Unruly politics is always situated in a specific time and place, engaging specific people. It cannot be reduced to fit into general procedures, designed to bring a plurality of people together in one body of manageable citizens.

At the same time, expressions of unruly politics evoke a deep wish to live a dignified life and be treated justly by state representatives, regardless of the particular envisioning of what a dignified life might entail in each different situation, for every different person. It is not carefully designed as a party-political campaign, nor is it driven by great revolutionary aspirations or clearly defined ideologies, but rather emerges in unexpected events.

It does not only take place at sites that are specifically designed for public and political debate; it also politicizes spaces which are meant to be neutral or private, such as the streets. Those who lack a formal citizenship status, or who feel impaired in making use of their formal citizenship status, literally gain space for their lives in informal or extra-legal ways. Through these same informal channels they sometimes have considerable impact on the formal domain of politics. The more the range of unruly political events expand and become publicly known, the more chance they will gradually transform into a more conventional mode of political agency and be incorporated into the domain of formal politics.

After the flames are extinguished and the smoke clears, politicians can feel the pressure to recognize the grievances of rioters, and new social movements can emerge from the initial, violent and disruptive events. The events showed tensions, but also possibilities for solidarity between a young gentrifying lower-middle class and a young underclass in the neighborhoods where the riots took place, for example Nunes , At the same time, the fact that many people struggle simultaneously for their personal survival makes it possible for a shared political sense in these singular struggles to emerge.

The streets are the domain where they meet and form occasional alliances Bayat , These people live perforce without the support of official state institutions, yet, at the same time, they often deeply distrust any state interference in their lives.

Out of fear of being regulated, controlled or disciplined by formal state procedures, they search for autonomous and alternative ways to sustain themselves and gather in informal communities in which they are free to mind their own business. They do not feel the urge to make publicity for any claims of general interest or to recruit allies in the perspective of a general transformation of society. Informal street politics therefore differs from unruly politics. In contrast to social movements, both the urban poor who engage in street politics, and young rioters who instigate events of unruly politics, do not form a coherently structured collective around clearly formulated, shared political claims or a collective ideology.

Conflicting motives, convictions and agendas are common in the domain of street politics as well as in events of unruly politics, and strong leadership is absent. The analysis of unruly politics is aimed at finding political meaning beyond the borders of formal governance. These considerations should not be understood as a simple celebration of violence, illegality and incivility. It is not a matter of celebrating unruliness as the only true political option here.

As I have emphasized before, unruly politics takes place in an inextricable relationship with formal political institutions and cannot be seen as an alternative replacement for these institutions. However, a critical examination of our imagined political community cannot take place without listening to the voices of those who express themselves in unconventional or undesirable ways, but who nevertheless share the social world with us.

If we a priori dismiss the involved actors of riots and other unorganized civil disturbances as not having any relation to the practice of active citizenship and politics, the lack of recognition and representation which they experience is enforced. An analysis of said disruptive events in the light of unruly politics prevents such immediate exclusion. We should merit the political sense of unruly political actions, such as riots and public disturbances, as acts in themselves, without immediately demanding an effective outcome.

The Limits of Civil Disobedience in Hong Kong

In a situation in which structural social changes are hard to imagine for a young generation growing up in times of crisis and polarization, one should not measure their political conscience by their ability to propose alternative models for society, but with their ability to open our eyes to the flaws in the existing political model of representation.

Her dissertation consisted of an interdisciplinary research into the political meaning of public disturbances and urban violence caused by adolescents with an immigrant background from deprived neighborhoods in France and the Netherlands. As a freelance researcher she also cooperated with partners such as Forum: Dutch Institute for Multicultural Issues, Hivos Dutch organization in development cooperation , the Municipality of Amsterdam, Vrijwilligers Centrale Amsterdam Association of Volunteers Amsterdam and de Doetank.

Besides her teaching and research work Femke regularly organizes youth exchange projects and is engaged in activism related to housing, migration and social justice issues. Senseless violence or unruly politics? The uncivil revolt of young rioters. De zelfgenoegzaamheid van de linkse academici: Interview met Richard Rorty.

U bent niet tot antwoorden verplicht, maar…. Animal deliberation: From farm philosophy to playing with pigs. Reconstructing alienation: A challenge to social critique? Issue 1, The uncivil revolt of young rioters Download as PDF. The uncivil revolt of young rioters Femke Kaulingfreks. Rage about exclusion and desire for emancipation Despite the fact that Mitch Hernandez was not a youth from the neighborhood, his death ignited a powder keg of rage and frustration, which had been filling up for quite some time in the Schilderswijk in The Hague.

Street culture versus civil culture The fact that riots are not readily recognized as political events is emphasized by the reaction of state representatives, who are primarily focused on the maintenance of public order and deny responsibility for the root causes of the disturbances Lamble The apparent senselessness of riots Before I take a closer look at rioting as a form of unruly political agency, it is important to indicate that the events are often interpreted as non-political or pre-political because the people involved are not recognized or represented within the political domain.