Monday, March 13, 2017

zizek: (phatic) violence -- review

There is a lot of recycled material in this book and a lot that is off the point altogether. So a typical Zizek book. The one idea I found interesting is his explanation of street protests that turn violent, as well as the kind of thing that went on in Paris in 2005, as 'phatic' violence. That is to say, it serves the sole purpose of saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. But Zizek doesn't take it far enough because in fact the phatic requires two interlocutors and its purpose is to keep open the lines of communication. So the obvious point he missed is that the police response is also phatic. By brutalising the protestors, they too are saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. Moreover, if this in fact the case, then this type of protest action will not bring change because it is a routine exchange. -- from a three-star review of Violence, 2009
This is (perhaps) similar to what's going on in Netherlands recently.

Brainstorm: I wonder if this could be connected with Bordieu's symbolic violence, variously:
“the violence which is exercised upon a social agent with his or her complicity”
“[a] term for the imposition on subordinated groups by the dominant class of an ideology which legitimates and naturalizes the status quo: see also dominant ideology”
Certainly a "status quo" seems roughly to be a phatic kind of thing, insofar as it provides a basis for communication.

Here's an abstract that offers an applied look at these issues:
Government policies and financial imperatives have fostered growing heterogeneity in student bodies in UK and Australian higher education (HE), but the underpinning logic of practice in these long-established social fields is far slower to change. Drawing on empirical evidence from case studies in each nation, this paper examines the tensions between the espoused and enacted values of the academy in relation to the widening participation and internationalisation agendas. We describe the research sites, their relationships with their respective fields of power and the experiences of participants as inhabitants of these HE fields. We highlight the struggles to secure relevant capital, acts of symbolic violence occurring at both institutional and programme levels and the resultant impact on individual positions and trajectories within the fields. Finally, we consider the extent to which the established practices in HE, which naturally preserve the dominance of the dominating factions, are likely to shift to enable it to genuinely enact the social conscience it espouses. 

badgers, boundaries, and regicide


Bullock, S, 2016, ‘"Shit Happens": The Spontaneous Self-Organisation of Communal Boundary Latrines via Stigmergy in a Null Model of the European Badger, Meles meles’. in: Tom Froese (eds) Artificial Life XV: Proceedings of The Fifteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems. MIT Press
This reminds me of a display I saw in the Archaeology museum in Dublin when I first arrived in the British Isles in 2010. The old Irish fiefdoms would often have burial sites at their boundaries, and especially at their corners. In particular, corners where several of these territories met each other would often be places where executions, and, according to the theory, ritual regicides, might be staged.
Badgers are incredibly clean and will not defecate in their sett – they have special latrines (communal toilets) comprising of shallow pits placed away from the setts on the edge of their territory. They will not bring food into the sett either.
"The king had great power but also great responsibility to ensure the prosperity of his people. Through his marriage on his inauguration to the goddess of the land, he was meant to guarantee her benevolence. He had to ensure the land was productive, so if the weather turned bad, or there was plague, cattle disease or losses in war, he was held personally responsible."
I'm also reminded of a talk by Žižek about Brexit, and a few other things, in which he talks about the changes to keeping-up-of external (i.e., boundary-related) appearances.  I'm sitting in a talk now so I can't listen to the audio but I'll add a quote later.