Recommended Reading: Sara Ahmed on Strategic Inefficiency.

At New Socialist, one of the things we offer subscribers is a weekly email from the editors with some recommended reads, & short contextualising texts. I’ve decided to periodically repost some of the things I’ve written for that here on my blog. If you want to get these as they’re written, along with excellent contributions from the other editors, you can subscribe to NS! But otherwise, I’ll add them here as and when I remember, and once long enough has passed that my re-publishing them doesn’t constitute a thorough razzing-off of subscribers.

In December, I wrote a short piece on Universal Credit, the publishing industry, and Sara Ahmed’s concept of ‘strategic inefficiency’. I hope you like it!

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Drones Are Not Queer Bodies: Cara Daggett, queer necropolitics, and 'the imperialism of theory'.

My working title for this piece was Drones Are Not Queer Bodies (and other sentences I can't believe I have to write). I've been trying to write a response to Cara Daggett's 2014 article 'Drone Disorientations: How "unmanned" weapons queer the experience of killing in war' for several weeks now. Trying, but not succeeding—because every time I open Daggett's text and begin to read, I find myself consumed with an anger that is far from academic. This is, I suppose, another example of the violence of academia (what Derrida (1978, p.104) called 'the imperialism of theory'): in adopting a particular language and subject-position, the author implicitly invalidates any response that does not join them on the exclusive and exclusionary playing-field they've marked out. I find myself gasping, not for words, but for the smugly detached academic calm—the aloof and sneering, impermeable smile—that is the 'proper' position from which to respond. 

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the call is coming from inside the house. (self surveillance, mental health, and the subject of capital.)

Back in August, the left wing magazine Red Pepper published a piece by Rod Tweedy entitled ‘A mad world: capitalism and the rise of mental illness’. The standfirst expands on the provocation offered by the title, asking, “What if it’s not us who are sick… but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?” While I accept that Tweedy, in all likelihood, bears no responsibility for this unfortunate glossing of his article, it does, however, remain in place some seven months after publication, serving as a lens through which, inevitably, the remainder of the piece will be read. With this in mind, I want to offer a loving critique of Tweedy’s argument, from my own position as both leftist theorist and mentally ill person. In so doing, I’m going to draw both on Foucault’s nebulous account, in Omnes et Singulatim, of how the ‘Western’ subject has been constituted by ideological forces, and on my personal experiences.

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arashiyama, autumn (嵐山, 秋で).

15 minutes on the train from Kyoto station will take you to Arashiyama (嵐山, Storm Mountain).  I went there in the autumn-time.

I ate beautiful 精進料理 (shōujin-ryōri, devotional cuisine, a vegan style of cooking that is unique to the Japanese Zen tradition) in a Rinzai temple; I visited the Shinto shrine where ancient princesses used to train and prepare for their lifelong custodianship of the major shrine at Ise. You can walk in bamboo groves and sacred gardens that are lush and heavy with life, and with the resonant notion, long forgotten by most in the so-called 'West', that human being is not separate from, nor different from, the rest of what we call 'nature'. The distilled, poetic wildness of a Japanese garden reminds me, always always, of our radical, sacred interconnection with all things.

It was super busy (autumn leaf viewing is serious business in Japan), and yet somehow, looking back through my photographs, I'm filled with the same sense of peace and immersion that I experienced that afternoon. Lots of photographs below...

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