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Temporalities of Catastrophe

Sat, November 10, 12:00 to 1:45pm, Westin Peachtree, Sixth, Overlook (Sixth)

Session Submission Type: Paper Session: Traditional Format


The duration of crisis inheres across stolen lands, bodies rendered violable, insatiable predation, and a capitalist death drive intent on ecological extinction. Today, relentless "shock and awe" politics command economies of distraction as a corollary to perpetual war and social expendability made ordinary and the institutionalized ignorance of racism and colonial violence. This panel is an inquiry into the temporalities of catastrophe and the politics of time. Panelists pose and engage a number of questions in this regard. If the present is now often described as a permanent state of emergency, how might this insistence on catastrophe in perpetuity likewise entail ascriptions of temporal difference and division? In what sense is the current historical moment one of multiple-perhaps incommensurable-temporalities of crisis? What various presumptions and prescriptions shape notions of velocity, frequency, and discrete time frames in this sense? How can the immediacy of sudden or sensationalized violence likewise sustain, intensify, or transform generational time? Does the spectacle and urgency of emergency occlude the duration of what Rob Nixon calls "slow violence," or Lauren Berlant's notion of "slow death" and its attendant "temporalities of the endemic," or Ruth Wilson Gilmore's definition of racism as the differential exposure to premature death?

This panel seeks to think with the insights of critical inquiries that trouble normative analytics. Janet Roitman has generatively asked how crisis is "constituted as an object of knowledge" and an occasion for judgment that implies a normative closure. What conventions thus underwrite how disasters are attributed significance in terms of difference and division? Moreover, what specific legal, political, or social mechanisms instantiate, perpetrate, and/or distribute catastrophe in particular ways or target specific populations? Panelists approach these and other questions from a broad range of sites. Marisol LeBrón focuses on Hurricane Maria's recent devastation in Puerto Rico, asking how death is categorized in relation to the hurricane and in what ways these deaths might intersect with a much longer history of colonial violence and biopolitical calculation on the island. Alyosha Goldstein considers how contemporary reparations movements have not simply sought restitution for past wrongs but also conveyed the irreparability of historical injustices that are perpetuated, reproduced, and repurposed in the present. Tiffany Willoughby-Herard reflects on Fatima Meer's testimony on behalf of Andrew Zondo during the mid-1980s as an attempt, in the temporal frame of the courtroom, to make the law empathize with the slow catastrophe of Zondo's life and the ethical systems that compelled him to violent resistance to the South African state. Finally, Joanne Barker analyzes how the figure of the "murderable Indian" is produced and articulated across time with differentially racialized groups in order to rationalize all manner of invasion and occupation, genocide, mass incarceration, securitization, and counterterrorism. Together these papers seek to prompt further discussion on the time and timing of crisis and control, violence and violability, and rupture and resolution.

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