Conference: Violence and Creativity (and the Police Nationale)


Next Saturday (March 7th) I’m going to be giving the first in a trilogy of papers this month on the role of the Police Nationale in French banlieue riots of 2005 and 2008.  The overall goal is to finally have an article ready to go, in the end.

The paper on Saturday is entitled “Electric Burns: governmentality and its discontents in the French banlieue riots”.  The title of the conference is “Violence & Creativity” (see abstracts for both after the break).  It’s sposored by UC Berkeley‘s Center for South Asian Studies and it will be held at International House in Berkeley between 10m and 4pm.  The headliner is Ashis Nandy, who was recent named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world.

Violence & Creativity

This one-day workshop will feature the unpublished work of advanced
graduate students whose research focuses on the intersection between two
opposite domains—social existence and creativity, on the one hand, and
human destructiveness on the other, particularly as it relates to mass
violence. Themes should emphasize not only human destructiveness, but
also the resistance offered by ordinary people to organized machine
violence and ethno-nationalism. We welcome papers from all disciplines
in thCategoriese Humanities and Social Sciences. Geographic focus is not limited
to South Asia. Dr. Nandy as well as other UC Berkeley faculty will
provide comments and feedback on all the papers selected for this workshop

Electric Burns: governmentality and its discontents in the French banlieue

This paper will draw on ethnographic research among the French Police Nationale during the Autumn 2005 “banlieue riots” in order to reflect upon, and rethink, the available methods for imaging and imagining police power in the contemporary world. The predominant mode of representing the series of urban riots that occurred in France between 2005 and 2008 has relied upon images of combustion: fires, incendiary backdrops, the shadowy margins and profiles of Night. Such images are not innocent reflections of events. Rather they are inextricably linked with certain ideologies which communicate the mechanics of power as being primarily repressive in nature; counter-valent or critical practices are imagined, within this frame, to consist primarily as a form of destructive resistance. This paper will argue that such a framework remains inadequate to the actual micro-practices of police work—including the associated form of representation involved in such work—which served as the impetus for both rounds of uprising. Rather than primarily repressive in nature, police officers prefer to rely upon techniques of what Foucault called “governmentality,” a form of power constituted not against but through the enactment of freedom. In this sense I will argue that a full analysis of the banlieue riots must take into account the actual practices of power to which they are a response, thus shifting the analytics of critique and protest to include forms of expression not captured within a repressive frame.

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