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The right to look confronts the police who say to us “move on, there’s nothing to see here.” Only there is, and we know it and so do they. The opposite of the right to look is not censorship, then, but “visuality,” that authority to tell us to move on, and that exclusive claim to be able to look. Visuality is an old word for an old project. It is not a trendy theory word meaning the totality of all visual images and devices, but is in fact an early nineteenth century term, meaning the visualization of history.

This practice must be imaginary, rather than perceptual, because what is being visualized is too substantial for any one person to see and is created from information, images and ideas. This ability to assemble a visualization manifests the authority of the visualizer. In turn, the authorizing of authority requires permanent renewal in order to win consent as the “normal,” or everyday, because it is always already contested. The autonomy claimed by the right to look is thus opposed by the authority of visuality. But the right to look came first and we should not forget it.

‎”In total, between 1955 and 1970, the port’s operating income went from $742,000 to $6.5 million (in 1970 dollars). Over the same period, the port issued over $50 million in bonds, returning between 4 and 6 percent interest. Nutter and the port had demonstrated remarkable foresight, positioning Oakland to be the Pacific Coast gateway in a new era of international commerce in ways the MOAP architects dreamed. Much of the port’s income, however, only indirectly benefitted the city. Required by charter to reinvest income in port facilities, the new waterfront giant could not contribute money to the city’s operating budget. Port bondholders, both individually and institutional, were scattered across the nation. Both conditions left the port oddly independent of the city that owned it, a fact that would frustrate a subsequent generation of Oakland activists.”

Stranger: Where are you from? [Translation: You look a bit brown. Why are you brown?]

Me: London.

Stranger: No, where are you really from? [Translation: You are clearly telling me untruths. Brown people do not come from London.]

Me: London.

Stranger (exasperated): No, where are your parents from? [Translation: Now you’re just being obtuse.]

Me: Africa and America.

Stranger (confused): Erm … so where are your family from, like, back in the day? [Translation: People who come from Africa and America do not look like you.]

Me: Iran, India, Africa, America and England.

Stranger (relieved): India and Iran! Do you ever go back?

UC Davis English Department’s welcome message


The faculty of the UC Davis English Department supports the Board of the Davis Faculty Association in calling for Chancellor Katehi’s immediate resignation and for “a policy that will end the practice of forcibly removing non-violent student, faculty, staff, and community protesters by police on the UC Davis campus.” Further, given the demonstrable threat posed by the University of California Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to the safety of students, faculty, staff, and community members on our campus and others in the UC system, we propose that such a policy include the disbanding of the UCPD and the institution of an ordinance against the presence of police forces on the UC Davis campus, unless their presence is specifically requested by a member of the campus community. This will initiate a genuinely collective effort to determine how best to ensure the health and safety of the campus community at UC Davis.

"bureaucrats with weapons"

David Graeber, “Beyond Power/Knowledge: An Exploration of power, ignorance and stupidity”

A constant staple of 1950s American situation comedies, for example, was jokes about the impossibility of understanding women. The jokes  (always of course told by men) always represented women’s logic as fundamentally alien  and incomprehensible. One never had the impression the women in question had any  trouble understanding men. The reasons are obvious: women had no choice but to  understand men; this was the heyday of a certain image of the patriarchal family, and  women with no access to their own income or resources had little choice but to spend a  great deal of time and energy understanding what their menfolk thought was going on.  Patriarchal families of this sort are, as generations of feminists have emphasized, most  certainly forms of structural violence; their norms are indeed sanctioned by threat of  physical harm in endless subtle and not-so-subtle ways. And this kind of rhetoric about  the mysteries of womankind appears to be a perennial feature of them. Generations of  women novelists—Virginia Woolf comes most immediately to mind—have also  documented the other side of such arrangements: the constant efforts women end up  having to expend in managing, maintaining, and adjusting the egos of oblivious and selfimportant  men, involving an continual work of imaginative identification or what I’ve  called interpretive labor. This carries over on every level. Women are always expected to  imagine what things look like from a male point of view. Men are almost never expected  to reciprocate. So deeply internalized is this pattern of behavior that many men react to  the suggestion that they might do otherwise as if it were an act of violence in itself. A  popular exercise among High School creative writing teachers in America, for example,  is to ask students to imagining they have been transformed, for a day, into someone of the  opposite sex, and describe what that day might be like. The results, apparently, are  uncannily uniform. The girls all write long and detailed essays that clearly show they  have spent a great deal of time thinking about the subject. Half of the boys usually refuse  to write the essay entirely. Those who do make it clear they have not the slightest conception what being a teenage girl might be like, and deeply resent having to think about it.

What I would like to argue is that situations created by violence—particularly structural violence, by which I mean forms of pervasive social inequality that are ultimately backed up by the threat of physical harm—invariably tend to create the kinds of willful blindness we normally associate with bureaucratic procedures. To put it crudely: it is not so much that bureaucratic procedures are inherently stupid, or even that they tend to produce behavior that they themselves define as stupid, but rather, that are invariably ways of managing social situations that are already stupid because they are founded on structural violence.

in contemporary industrialized democracies, the legitimate administration  of violence is turned over to what is euphemistically referred to as “law enforcement”— particularly, to police officers, whose real role, as police sociologists have repeatedly  demonstrated, has much less to do with enforcing criminal law than with the scientific application of physical force to aid in the resolution of administrative problems. Police  are, essentially, bureaucrats with weapons. 

"crime is a first response"

Jonathan Simon, Governing Through Crime, p14:

It is a truism well worth remembering that behind all forms of law, public or private, lurks a background threat of violence within the law, generally embodied in the penal or criminal law. So if you refuse to perform on a binding contract, the other party may bring a civil law suit against you. If your adversary prevails and obtains a monetary judgment against you, your failure to honor it will ultimately result in a forcible taking of your assets, any resistance to which will generally constitute a criminal act. In this sense governing through crime might seem to state a rather unsurprising syllogism. Since all governance, public or private, in American society takes places within a structure of legal authority (of public officers but also parents, employers, property owners, and so on), and since all legal authority ultimately rests on the threat of lawful violence within the criminal law, all governance is “through” the implied threat of making resistance at some stage a “crime.” This is a useful balance to the frequent celebration of liberal capitalist societies as ones governed by consent and through the instruments of free exchange (Cover 1986). The distinction I wish to draw with the way that American democracy has been deformed by the war on crime is one of priority. In the conventional syllogism, crime (and the violence it authorizes) is generally a last response, the end point of a pathway of resistance to lawful governance. What is visibly different about the way we govern since the 1960s is the degree to which crime is a first response.

"Message to Campus Community"

To the Extended UC Berkeley Community:

As you know, yesterday an effort was made to establish an encampment on Sproul Plaza, by the “Occupy Cal” movement.  This followed and marred the aftermath of an impressive, peaceful noontime rally on Sproul on behalf of public education, which was attended by some 3,000 participants and observers, including many campus leaders. We compliment the organizers and speakers for setting an example of peaceful protest and mobilization.  As we informed the campus community earlier this week, we understand and share the concern of the Occupy movement about the extreme concentration of wealth in US society and the steady disinvestment in public higher education by California and other States. 

We want to clarify our position on “no encampments” so you better understand why we do not allow this to occur on our campus.  When the no-encampment policy was enacted, it was born out of past experiences that grew beyond our control and ability to manage safely.  Past experiences at UC Berkeley, along with the present struggles with entrenched encampments in Oakland, San Francisco, and New York City, led us to conclude that we must uphold our policy.

This decision is largely governed by practical, not philosophical, considerations. We are not equipped to manage the hygiene, safety, space, and conflict issues that emerge when an encampment takes hold and the more intransigent individuals gain control.  Our intention in sending out our message early was to alert everyone that these activities would not be permitted.  We regret that, in spite of forewarnings, we encountered a situation where, to uphold our policy, we were required to forcibly remove tents and arrest people.

We want to thank our student leaders, faculty, and community members who worked hard to maintain a peaceful context last night.  We have been in discussions with the ASUC, Graduate Assembly, and other student leaders who have provided a number of alternative proposals for working with the student protesters.  One such discussion led last night to our offering protesters the opportunity to use Sproul Plaza 24/7 for one week, as a venue for gathering and discussing the issues.  However, we stipulated that no tents, stoves, and sleeping bags would be allowed.  They could gather in Sproul for discussion, but not for sleeping.  This was rejected by a vote of the mass of the protesters. 

It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.  By contrast, some of the protesters chose to be arrested peacefully; they were told to leave their tents, informed that they would be arrested if they did not, and indicated their intention to be arrested.  They did not resist arrest or try physically to obstruct the police officers’ efforts to remove the tent.  These protesters were acting in the tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, and we honor them. 

We regret that, given the instruction to take down tents and prevent encampment, the police were forced to use their batons to enforce the policy.  We regret all injuries, to protesters and police, that resulted from this effort.  The campus’s Police Review Board will ultimately determine whether police used excessive force under the circumstances. 

We call on the protesters to observe campus policy or, if they choose to defy the policy, to engage in truly non-violent civil disobedience and to accept the consequences of their decisions. 

We ask supporters of the Occupy movement to consider the interests of the broader community—-the tens of thousands who elected not to participate in yesterday’s events. We urge you to consider the fact that there are so many time-tested ways to have your voices heard without violating the one condition we have asked you to abide by.

Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor
George Breslauer, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Harry LeGrande, Vice Chancellor for Studies Affairs