May 27, 2012

Judith Butler on solidarity

I survived my dissertation defense! But it was H A R D, so many thanks for your messages of support.  They truly helped. 

The day after my defense I started teaching a very intensive summer course that is new to me, so I've been scrambling to keep my head above water - but last Thursday I got to see Judith Butler speak and it was such a treat! She is clearly thinking alot about solidarity these days, though not necessarily using that term.  She had fascinating things to say about the role of empathy - she seems as dubious about it as I am and talked about being with and through each other in beautifully poetic ways.  She also talked about the importance of personal stories and sharing the stories of others in ethical ways - something I've been passionate about for years and am going to focus on in my postdoc.  I can't wait to listen to her talk again - the CBC is going to broadcast it and I'll link it when they do. 

In response to one of the questions she got here in Vancouver she referenced this recent talk of hers (below) at the European Graduate school, where you can see she's grappling with these issues.  For those who aren't theory geeks, be warned - this is not, ahem, the most accessible of talks.  But it's Butler! She's amazing!

May 4, 2012

the end is near!

I'm (finally!) defending my dissertation on Monday.  Good vibes welcome!
The final title is:
Making Space for Peace: International Protective Accompaniment in Colombia (2007-2009)
the abstract:
International accompaniment is a strategy used in conflict zones that puts people who are less at risk literally next to people under threat because of their work for peace and justice.  Thousands of human rights workers, grassroots organizations, and communities have been protected in this way since 1983.  There are now international accompaniers working with 24 organizations in ten countries.  Colombia is the country with the largest number of international groups. 
I spent 15 months in Colombia holding ongoing conversations with accompaniers about how accompaniment works, or to use Peace Brigades’ slogan, how it ‘makes space for peace.’  Paradoxically accompaniers use the fact that their lives ‘count’ more (because of passport/economic/racial privilege), to build a world where everyone’s lives ‘count’..  I was hoping that accompaniment was using privilege in such a way that it could ‘use it up’.  I did not find that, but I argue that accompaniment can wear down the structures that grant privilege unequally – but it can also reinforce those, depending on how it is done.  It is easier for accompaniers to fall into colonial patterns and reinforce structures of domination that make some lives worth more than others when they understand themselves as nonpartisan civilian peacekeepers.  It is also easier to fall into those traps when accompaniers see space as abstract and elide how race and other privileges shape their work. To change structures of domination, accompaniment needs not only to leverage difference, but also simultaneously build connections across difference and distance, through chains of solidarity.