Global Palestine: Contemporary Collisions

John Collins (@djleftover), author of Global Palestine (Hurst/Oxford UP, 2011), explores the global politics of violence and the representation of violence, paying particular attention to the microcosmic and prophetic location of Palestine in relation to these processes.  (Image: Diego Lopez Calvin)

9/11 and the Terrorism of Language

107 Collateral Language“Language is a terrorist organization, and we stand united against terrorism.”  So began Collateral Language, a book I co-authored with a group of my colleagues shortly after the 9/11 attacks.  We wanted to call attention to the fact that in the aftermath of such a traumatic event, language can become a battlefield in a new kind of war – a war to leverage the event itself in the service of a response that stretches well beyond specific military campaigns. 

9/11, we suspected, would become a key moment in a much longer story of political and social transformation.  Language, we suspected, would be not only a casualty of 9/11, but also the currency through which these transformations would be sold to the American people and a central mechanism through which they would be carried out. 

We didn’t know how right we were. 

9/11/11: Critical Connectivity and the Next 10 Years

Just ten days after the 9/11 attacks, the Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman, who had experienced the September 11, 1973 coup d’etat and the subsequent period of military repression in his country, wrote the following: “One of the ways for Americans to overcome their trauma and survive the fear and continue to live and thrive in the midst of the insecurity which has suddenly swallowed them is to admit that their suffering is neither unique nor exclusive, that they are connected…with so many other human beings who, in apparently faraway zones, have suffered similar situations of unanticipated and often protracted injury and fury."

Is the world in our hands?

91 Barcelona, July 2011Every day it becomes clearer and clearer that the global financial elite is leading us down a path of auto-destruction.  Long constructed as the risk-taking heroes of our age (the "job-creators," in right-wing doublespeak), the great barons of financial speculation are slowly being unmasked as the monumental swindlers that the most insightful analysts of global political economy have always known them to be.  The political class, in turn, are being unmasked not as governors but rather as cynical and sycophantic managers of a decaying, suicidal system - magicians who deflect attention from the proverbial "men behind the curtain."  And with that unmasking has come a wave of popular anger and protest that continues to astound.  While the challenges facing the "Arab Spring" seem more daunting than ever, it would be foolish to assume that popular mobilization for change in the region has been exhausted.  On the periphery of the European core, the indignados of Spain (labeled by one analyst as the "vanguard of a global nonviolent revolt") and their counterparts in Italy, Greece and elsewhere continue to experiment with alternatives to the Axis of Endocolonization that is systematically funneling resources from the poor and middle classes to the super-rich.  Even Israelis are getting into the act, recently launching their own street protests against the "wholesale collapse of the public sector." 

Live from Madrid!

For those following the ongoing popular movement in Spain, take a look at the live feed from the Puerta del Sol in Madrid (off the air at the moment, but sure to be back online in the morning when Spaniards are scheduled to vote in municipal elections):


The Real Meaning of the Nakba: Rights Are Not Narratives

79 The next time anyone tries to tell you that “the occupation” (meaning the post-1967 Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza) is the core of the issue in Israel/Palestine, politely but firmly tell them that they’re off by twenty years. Today, May 15, is the day Palestinians commemorate al-Nakba (“the Catastrophe”), the day the state of Israel declared its independence in 1948, putting a public seal of approval on the near-destruction of Palestinian society.  Without the Nakba, the Zionist movement never could have achieved its goal of creating a majority-Jewish state in Palestine.  Equally important, on a day of clashes at numerous sites in and around Israel/Palestine, many journalists continue to collaborate in the perpetuation of a discursive framework that helps shield Israel from legal responsibility for the effect of the Nakba. (Image by SlimVirgin at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons)

Interweaving: Khaldoun Samman on the Changing Face of Islamophobia and Colonial Discourse

66 Khaldoun SammanAs part of my occasional series of “Interweaving” conversations, I recently interviewed Khaldoun Samman, Associate Professor of Sociology at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Samman teaches a range of courses in social theory, social problems, and the complex relations between “Islam” and “the West” and is the author of the recently-published book Clash of Modernities: The Islamist Challenge to Jewish, Turkish and Arab Nationalism, published in December 2010 by Paradigm Publishers.  

JC: Since 9/11 we have seen a proliferation of Islamophobic discourses that have shaped a wide range of public debates about everything from immigration policy to the prosecution of the “global war on terrorism” to the politics of human rights.  What role does sexuality play in some of these emerging discourses?

Back to Gaza

During the past couple of years I have written occasionally about the Free Gaza project, a significant international solidarity effort designed to break the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip and, more generally, call attention to the blockade's impact on the population of Gaza.  A new flotilla of boats is now on the way to Gaza, and of course the world is wondering how the Netanyahu government will respond.  The Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli forces have been training in "crowd-dispersion techniques which it may need to use to commandeer the vessels."  Meanwhile, one al-Jazeera journalist is getting a little fed up with the attitude of the activists.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, the activists have created a very useful site,, which allows you to follow the progress of the boats. 

Bailing Out the Banks, European-Style

Already saddled with 20 percent unemployment (even higher in the southern region of Andalucia), Spain is now dealing with one of the ugliest realities of the global financial crisis: when it comes time to make tough choices and ask people to make sacrifices, it is always the lower and middle classes who take the hit.  This past week, Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced a package of drastic public sector cuts including a five percent pay cut for civil servants and other budget reductions that will affect ordinary Spaniards much more than they will affect the bankers. 

This is hardly surprising, given what we know about how easily the global financial elites are able to pressure governments these days and how quickly governments are falling into line

'What kind of times are these?'
Thanks to the courageous efforts of the people at Wikileaks, we now have access to a horrifying document of what war has become in the 21st century: video of U.S. forces, operating at a distance from helicopters, killing two journalists, two children, and numerous other Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.  (For more on Wikileaks, see Dan Shafer's Nov. 2009 post on the subject.)  If you have not already seen the video, I encourage you to watch it either on the main Wikileaks site or at the special website  This story has been getting quite a bit of media attention in recent days, although not nearly as much as it deserves.
John Trudell on Democracy - Fantasies and Realities
I have long been fascinated by the life and work of John Trudell, the former National Chairman of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who subsequently became an accomplished poet, musician, and actor.  Many of my students are familiar with Trudell's ideas through the documentary film made by Heather Rae.  One of the reasons I find Trudell's ideas and his art so provocative is that I am deeply interested in the issue of settler colonialism.  I find that engaging with Trudell's work helps me sort through many of the complex ways in which settler-colonial projects continue to structure reality in places like the United States, Australia, South Africa, and Palestine (the place that interests me most as a researcher).  I recently came across an interview clip in which Trudell briefly discusses some of his views on the issue of democracy and its relationship to "Western civilization" and the colonization of North America.