[URBANTH-L]NEWS: the week Paris burned

Allen Feldman af31 at nyu.edu
Mon Nov 7 11:35:46 EST 2005

To assert that the only function of ethnographic inquiry into political
violence, "rioting" state counterinsurgency and related violations of
human rights and economic justice is a

> contribution to the
> rise of the very systems the Parisians are trying to burn down was due
> to the need for sovereign and disciplinary powers to understand and 
> then control the hows and whys of people raising hell, through the 
> productionof the very "disciplined knowledge" we tend to value so 
> highly...

is reductionist and implies that the history of the discipline came to a
halt somewhere in the mid 1960s. Since then ( and even before) many
anthropologists have witnessed and cogently written against state
violence and economic and racial injustice, and in a few locales such as
Guatemala and the (ex)Soviet Union have actually been imprisoned and or
 killed for their research activities against the state. It also assumes
a artificial isolation of the so-called rioters as  a isolated discrete
and reified passive analytic object, when surely any ethnographic
inquiry here would have to engage the state apparatus and the media to
be holistic and would  also require the active consent of the
community-based  stake holders and role players.

>Do we really believe that some sort of "disciplined knowledge" is what
> is needed?
Oh yes, to counter and to contest the disciplined knowledge of the
police system the legal system, media system, the counterinsurgency
techniques,  the systems of incarceration/interrogation, and  of the
rehabilitative social service/ clinical discourses that  are politically
arrayed  against such actions from below.
 and that will  monopolize the discourse on the riots and the rioters 
in the public culture creating even more violence and social erasure.

>The people
>in rioting in Parisian suburbs and housing projects are not the same as
>the people studying in US universities. It is best not to confuse
>writing a dissertation with burning a car. Different endeavours,
>different audiences, different goals, different effect

 Can we add French universities here and for a moment recall May 1968,
in which both students( academics) and workers "rioted."  Further
ethnographic inquiry has always arisen from cultural and class  racial,
religious differentials not withstanding  local and/or indigene
anthropologist who may share culture and language with informants but
rarely  class. In any case ethnographic access to the communities and
experience of the protesters will only take place with their permission
and cooperation if they see it as advancing their interests-getting
their story out, one cannot impose such research on resistance
communities. Cultural and class differentials will also characterize the
volunteer human rights monitors, the legal advocates and medical people
who will be  urgently needed in that community to deal with the effects
of  anti-state and state violence on the community  whether the victims
were "rioters" or not. Should they abstain from their work simply
because they are "different" from the community in which these actions
are taking place? In a Gramscian war of position the formation of
counter hegemony requires different audiences, tactics, goals and effects.

Allen Feldman
Culture and Communication
New York University

----- Original Message -----
From: OlatokunboAdeola Enigbokan <enigbo01 at newschool.edu>
Date: Sunday, November 6, 2005 4:45 pm
Subject: Re: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: the week Paris burned

> Do we really believe that some sort of "disciplined knowledge" is what
> is needed to "solve issues of deprivation that have been festering for
> decades?" 

> It seems counter-productive to try to incorporate (and thereby defuse)
> the concentrated, visceral response of people trying to effect some 
> sortof real change in a crippling and crippled system into "important
> avenues of research." I highly doubt that there has been a dearth of
> "important research" into when people "raise holy hell." In fact I 
> wouldsay that a significant part of the social sciences' 
> contribution to the
> rise of the very systems the Parisians are trying to burn down was due
> to the need for soveriegn and disciplinary powers to understand and 
> thencontrol the hows and whys of people raising hell, through the 
> productionof the very "disciplined knowledge" we tend to value so 
> highly.
> To propose that more studies are what are needed is to totally
> misunderstand, and possibly even disrespect the impulse to 
> dramaticallyaddress the injustices in everyday life. It is also to 
> assume that the
> people rioting do not themselves possess the necessary tools and
> knowledge to resolve the problems of which they themselves bear the
> brunt. Do they really need more social scientists and policymakers to
> make more studies of what's wrong with their situations? 
> The riots in Paris are immediate, local, aimed at a particular system.
> The machinery of academic discipline is hardly comparable.  The people
> in rioting in Parisian suburbs and housing projects are not the 
> same as
> the people studying in US universities. It is best not to confuse
> writing a dissertation with burning a car. Different endeavours,
> different audiences, different goals, different effects.  
> Assuming that anthropologists can do more than "argue the finer points
> of postmodernism," is to misunderstand one's own position within a
> powerful institution, and to disregard the importance of "arguing 
> finerpoints." Arguing amongst ourselves is what we do best, and to 
> greatesteffect. Anthropologists, as is true for most academics, 
> WRITE. The power
> of the academy lies in its support for the activities of reading,
> talking and most of all, writing. Am I sounding too postmodern? 
> This is
> not my aim. The postmodern moment was before my time. Please bear with
> me...
> Changing how we write, to whom we write and from where we write are
> among the most important interventions that can be made from the
> positions we occupy. I am unclear on what Mr. Macdowell means by
> "applied tasks," but I am in support of anthropologists doing high
> quality research and writing, which does not presume to speak for or
> about people, but aims to open up avenues through which people can 
> beginto speak to each other, before they have to burn each other's 
> cars.
> Sincerely,
> Adeola Enigbokan
> PhD candidate, The New School for Social Research
> >>> "Paul" <paulanthropus at cox.net> 11/06/05 1:43 PM >>>
> These riots have threefold implications. First, it is a harbinger of
> things
> to come if the basic needs of the world's majority are not met. The
> globalization advocates had better deliver the goods if their "trickle
> down
> theory" holds any water. Second, this provides an important avenue of
> research--when do people say "basta" and raise holy hell? Third, it
> warns
> anthropologists and other social scientists to stop arguing the fine
> points
> of postmodernism or some other theory du jour and start applying a
> disciplined knowledge to solving the issues of deprvation that have 
> beenfestering for decades, indeed centuries.
> In short, it's time to get on with the research and applied tasks that
> really matter.
> Paul McDowell
> Instructor
> Santa Barbara City College.
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Angela Jancius" <acjancius at ysu.edu>
> To: <urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu>
> Sent: Sunday, November 06, 2005 9:31 AM
> Subject: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: the week Paris burned
> > Violence sweeps France in 10th night of riots
> >
> > Alex Duval Smith in Paris and David Smith
> > Sunday November 6, 2005
> > The Observer
> >
> > France was reeling from a 10th night of violence yesterday as 
> riotingswept
> > from the suburbs of Paris to become a nationwide crisis.
> >
> > In towns and cities across the country, youths armed with gasoline
> bombs
> > torched scores of vehicles, nursery schools and other targets. 
> Policesaid
> > that at least 607 vehicles were set alight, with more than half
> outside
> the
> > Paris region.
> >
> > The Foreign Office yesterday warned British tourists to 'exercise
> extreme
> > care in the affected areas'.
> >
> > The mayhem came in direct defiance of a warning from Interior 
> Minister> Nicolas Sarkozy that rioters faced stiff punishments. He 
> said setting
> cars
> > on fire could 'cost dear in terms of sentences' and that the
> government
> was
> > 'unanimous' about standing firm against violence, which many are
> describing
> > as France's worst civil unrest since the 1968 student revolts.
> >
> > Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was yesterday forced to call a
> crisis
> > meeting of his ministers and a top Muslim official as the rioting
> continued
> > to spread.
> >
> > Last night five classrooms at the Sleeping Beauty Nursery School in
> Grigny,
> > in the Essonne region south of Paris, went up in flames as well 
> as two
> > classrooms at another school.
> >
> > In a measure of public dissatisfaction with the government, Yvan
> Lemaitre,
> > the parent of one of the pupils at the Sleeping Beauty school, told
> French
> > radio: 'Burning a school is unacceptable but the man who lit the 
> fireis
> > Sarkozy.'
> >
> > By 1am this morning, at least 607 vehicles were burned - 13 of them
> inside
> > Paris. The overall figures were expected to climb by daybreak.
> >
> > The troubles threatened to spiral out of control as arson attacks 
> were> reported in cities to the north, south, east and west, many 
> known for
> their
> > calm, like the cultural bastion of Avignon in southern France and 
> theresort
> > cities of Nice and Cannes, where cars were torched.
> >
> > In the Normandy town of Evreux, arson attacks laid waste to at least
> 50
> > vehicles, part of a shopping centre, a post office and two schools,
> said
> > Patrick Hamon, spokesman for the national police.
> >
> > He added that five police officers and three firefighters were 
> injured> battling the blazes.
> >
> > Arson was also reported in Nantes, in the south west, in Lille and
> Rennes
> in
> > the north and Saint-Dizier, in the Ardennes region east of Paris. In
> the
> > eastern city of Strasbourg, 18 cars were set alight in full 
> daylight,police
> > said. In Toulouse, there were 30 arson attacks.
> >
> > Some 2,300 police were being brought into the Paris region to 
> bolster> security. In the Essonne area south of the city, a 
> recycling factory
> was
> set
> > on fire and at least 35 vehicles torched.
> >
> > Twenty-eight cars were torched in the Seine-Saint-Denis region, 
> northeast
> > of Paris, where the riots erupted after two teenage boys were
> accidentally
> > electrocuted as they hid from police, apparently thinking they were
> being
> > pursued. French authorities have denied that police were to blame.
> >
> > France-Info radio reported residents catching two 14-year-olds 
> tryingto
> > light a fire in Drancy, north-east of Paris, and turning them 
> over to
> > police.
> >
> > Even in the heart of Paris three cars were damaged by fire in the
> Republique
> > section, north east of City Hall.
> >
> > Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, hundreds of people joined marches in
> Paris
> > suburbs to protest against the violence. In Aulnay-sous-Bois, which
> has
> seen
> > some of the worst of the rioting, residents walked past burnt-out
> vehicles
> > and buildings with banners reading 'No to violence' and 'Yes to
> dialogue'.
> >
> > De Villepin called the emergency cabinet meeting to attempt to 
> regainthe
> > momentum and show a united front. He called on ministers to speed up
> plans
> > for urban renewal and asked the influential imam of the Paris 
> mosque,Dalil
> > Boubakeur, to appeal for calm.
> >
> > But it was Sarkozy who again came in for attack. After his meeting
> with De
> > Villepin, Boubakeur launched a veiled attack on the minister's
> outbursts,
> in
> > which he called the disaffected young men on estates 'louts'.
> >
> > Police trade union official Gilles Petit said the rioters would 
> 'stopat
> > nothing' in their attacks.
> >
> >
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