Summer Lovin’ [why ‘time off’ is never ‘time off’]

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So it’s officially the summer, and while some may assume that this grants us in the academic trenches some relief, I’d beg to differ. For me, the summer means not having to commute to Miami University, but I am still designing and teaching for Georgetown University’s Intersections program, and catching up on the many, many projects I’ve been developing.

Currently, I’m co-editing four books, finishing the proofs on my own single-authored book, writing journal articles and several book chapters, designing syllabi, directing a 20+ person student-led research project…. It’s all a labor of love, because if it wasn’t, I’d throw up my hands and quit.

Summer is also the time I take stock of the academic year ahead, and make my plans. Since I have a few pots on the stove, I use these early weeks to update the pieces in various stages of productions, and to that end, I have released a few draft chapters, and a few placeholders. I will list them below. Some of these link to full-text drafts, and others will soon. Please feel free to send feedback, critiques, questions and angry rants to me….I know you will anyway.

From the trenches:

Michael

— — —

Leftist Political Violence: From Terrorism to Social Protest [Forthcoming 2017] In Terrorism in America. Eds. Kevin Borgeson and Robin Valeri. Taylor and Francis, 2017. Full-text draft version posted.

  • The history of leftist terrorism in the United States is largely a record of the changing discourse surrounding social protest, and the use of militant and illegal means within campaigns of political contestation. While the assassination of heads of state common in the 19th and 20th centuries may fit a standard definition of terrorism for some, when these political movements began to target property and actively avoid human causalities, the labeling of these tendencies marked an era of state efforts to reframe and repress methods of protest, and less an apt descriptor of the actors themselves. The usage of the label of terrorism to describe animal liberation and environmental protest most clearly demonstrates this shift, as does the FBI’s description of these networks of vandals as the ‘number one domestic terrorism threat.’ From this history, the decision to label a particular individual, organization, network, or ideology as terroristic appears more reflective of the wider political context, and the implications this has for federal policy. Acts of political violence once thought of in criminal terms, have thus changed discursive form from remaining in the realm of policing, to now constituting existential threats to national security. Therefore, the history of domestic leftist terrorism cannot be divorced from the genealogy of the discourse used to label these movements, and it is through a careful examination of this historical record that one can observe the power of language, and the inherent authority of the state as a site of legalistic, rhetorical and discursive construction.

“Structural Conflict, Systemic Violence & Peace: A Guided Reading.” [Forthcoming, 2017] A History of World Peace Since 1750. Eds. Christian Peterson, William M. Knoblauch and Michael Loadenthal, Routledge, 2017. Full-text draft version posted.

  • The transdisciplinary field of Peace and Conflict Studies has championed the cause of equality and peace, yet often bases its analysis in unacknowledged traditions of the critical left. Intellectual traditions from Marxism to anarchism are based in an understanding of structural inequality that are pervasive and relatively unchanged since their inception in the 1850s. From these intellectual roots, a host of liberatory, democratic, and peace-centric perspectives have emerged from feminist analysis to Occupied-inspired anti-capitalist critique. While the Marxist framework is firmly rooted in a stoic structuralism, these foundational concepts are extended through the work of neo-Marxists and poststructuralists to understand the nature of power and oppression as deterritorialized, boundless, fluid, and malleable. The following deconstructive, genealogical history traces Peace Studies’ understanding of the relationship between structure and violence through a variety of core areas including basic human needs, statehood, culture, ideology and the question of whether violent inequality is inherent in the State. The discussion of the red-to-black spectrum aims to move beyond issues of disciplinary taxonomy and instead reengage with broader, epistemological questions regarding violence, peace, domination, hierarchy and democratic governance. This chapter seeks to trace the history of a structural analysis embedded in peace and conflict, from the early libertarianism of Marx, up until the modern anthropologists and poststructural peace theorists.

“Othering Terrorism: A rhetorical strategy of strategic labeling” Genocide Studies and Prevention. International Association of Genocide Scholars, Spring 2017.

  • The term terrorism is as value-laden a descriptor as one will encounter in the contemporary period. Though it evokes a strong image of an Orientalist, colonized, brown body enacting brutal, theatrical violence from behind a balaclava, the term itself describes very little. The decision to label a particular act, individual, or movement as terroristic is more a discursive question of politics than means. In the post-9/11 era, state-level rhetoricians describe their ideological enemies that can be “othered” as terrorists, while others are considered extremists. In doing so, Muslim, Arab, Asian, African and foreign-born advocates and practitioners of political violence are termed terrorists with near universality, while white, Christian, Westerners acting in the name of white supremacy, anti-abortion, and so-called ‘patriot’, or sovereign citizen movements are left outside of that taxonomy. Through an analysis of Ridley Scott’s film Black Hawk Down focused on US intervention in Somalia, media coverage of Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the portrayal of rightist violence, one can explore how violence is viewed positionally, and how terrorism has been utilized as a defamatory label applied asymmetrically to some proponents of political violence—those brown and black lives existing in precarity who challenge discursive claims on violence, statehood, capital, and what are broadly understood to be ‘Western’ values.

“Cells, Communiqués & Monikers: The Insurrectionary Networks of Anti-State Attack” To be published in Routledge Guide to Radical Politics, Eds. Ruth Kinna and Uri Gordon, Routledge, 2017.

  • Spanning over a century, the insurrectionary spirit of anarchism has been on the forefront of direct, unmediated attacks on the state and capital. Insurrectionary praxis is based on an ethic of informality, clandestinity, and temporality, and as a result its cells exist in secret only as long as deemed necessary for a particular action. Unlike social movement organizations and aboveground campaigns, the cells that populate the insurrectionary milieu are not something to ‘belong to’ but something to ‘act through’; a momentary assemblage of like-minded individuals united for a particular attack by voluntary association and through shared affinity. While the modern cell networks gained visibly in Europe around the millennium, their rapid replication has led to similarly-styled formations in dozens of countries from the Americas to Asia. This franchised replication is aided by the use of adoptable monikers—static labels used to associate an attack with others, and to ideologically tag them as insurrectionary. Oftentimes these are acronyms whose names communicate the politics of the attackers, such as the Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI), Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (CCF), International Revolutionary Front (IRF) as well as older, not explicitly insurrectionary monikers such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The use of moniker-linked attacks, which form into a campaign of sorts, is a distinctive feature of the insurrectionary cells. For example, in June 2013, a Greek of the Informal Anarchist Federation cell bombed a vehicle belonging to a prison director overseeing the incarceration of comrades. This attack marked ‘act one’ of the Phoenix Project, and would be followed by thirteen additional attacks, spanning eight countries out over a twelve-month period. The Phoenix Project highlights the strength of the adoptable moniker, as thorough its usage, an arson targeting an Indonesian hotel and the sabotage of Italian fuel pumps can be united into an shared, global effort, and not understood as disparate acts of lone wolves. This chapter will explore how the insurrectionary anarchist networks utilize the cell model, the communiqué, and the adoptable moniker to allow for the creation of a globally-dispersed, decentralized, open involvement movement united in its rejection of capitalism, the state, and those who would seek to control it

“Eco-Terrorism”: An Incident-Driven History of Attack (1973-2010) [Forthcoming, 2017] Journal for the Study of Radicalism, Vol.10, Issue 3. Michigan State University Press.]

  • The animal and earth liberation movements (i.e. “eco-terrorists”), are characterized by autonomous cells of activists utilizing a diverse tactical array to cause financial disruption and damage to businesses, governments and individuals seen to be contributing to animal exploitation and ecological degradation. Though the movement has produced an extremely limited amount of “violence,” and despite its strong tendency to target property, authoritative labeling has termed such actions terrorism. This study adds to the discourse concerning the political violence of “eco-terrorism” by examining the movement’s historical timeline through a statistical analysis of more than 27,000 events drawn from nearly three hundred sources including movement ephemera, government reports, academic articles and books, media accounts, and security briefings produced by besieged industries. This historical analysis demonstrates the atypicality of violent attacks qualifying as terrorism, and establishes that “eco-terrorism” is far more frequently a defamatory political label applied to small-scale criminal acts targeting property that present no risk to human life. This incident-based historical analysis, attempts to correct methodological flaws grounded in incomplete datasets which serve to skew findings through an over representation of attacks involving arson and explosives.
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