Governing the Political: Law and the Politics of Resistance
Coordinators: Deborah Brock (York University), Carmela Murdocca (York University)
Description of the meeting
We are witnessing the rise of new social movements and an emerging politics of global resistance to neoliberalism, as new possibilities for a politics of contestation and resistance take shape. Neoliberal practices of governance and regulation have included deregulation, privatization and the increased withdrawal of the state from areas that safeguard the social provisions of citizens. These changes have had a profound impact on law and on diverse forms of regulation, both formal and informal. These political and economic changes have also resulted in pervasive cultural effects as neoliberal ideals have transformed common-sense understandings of the world; ideas which resistance movements challenge, and sometimes unintentionally embrace. Governing the Political will bring together internationally situated scholars from a diverse range of career stages to discuss how a governance or governmentality approach to law and social regulation can contribute to a politics of resistance and potentially inspire political practice.
Rather than study legal institutions, in this workshop law will be considered broadly to address how it constitutes, and is constituted by, social life, political meaning and cultural relations in a dynamic process that produces far-reaching governmental power. Theoretically, we engage with a Foucauldian influenced governmentality perspective to explore how scholars are uncovering, tracing, and explaining governmental power in relation to law and regulation, as well as showing how a politics of resistance also occurs. Empirically, we have solicited research that engages with the relationship(s) between formal and informal modes of regulation in neoliberal times, including but not limited to law. Our participants engage in theoretically rich and empirically grounded research in a range of subject and geographical areas, addressing such diverse topics as the formation of subjectivities, rights, risk, migration, policing, and the rise of right wing populism. Together, we anticipate that Governing the Political will highlight the contemporary state of the field of socio-legal studies on governance, law and resistance, and provide an intervention into analyses of the shift to the right in North America and Europe, in particular.
In Session One, , Risky Subjects, we explore how citizens and ‘others’ negotiate law and regulation from the margins, experiencing assimilation and exclusion. Here, we engage with research in Russia, Japan, the United States, Spain, and Canada, exploring how subjectification in each country bears a distinct relation to neoliberalism and practices of governmentality. This comparison allows us to consider what is distinct about neoliberalism, and what specific practices also occur in other relations of rule. In Session Two, New Forms of Subjectification and Resistance, we explore how neoliberal discourses have significantly re-shaped what can be known and how we can know it through an insistence on individualism, autonomy, responsibilization, empowerment, rights, and in compelling people to assume a state of freedom in an unfree world. We explore how these discourses have impacted on pedagogy, health, and the environment in North America and Western Europe. In countries where neoliberal economic policies have been advanced in the last few decades, right wing populist and white supremacist movements have also gained traction, with profound legal and policy consequences. We are interested in exploring how neoliberalism has facilitated a shift to the right. In Session Three, The Rise of the Right: White Nationalism, Extremism, and Hate, we undertake this exploration through research taking in place in North America and Western Europe. A crucial dimension of the rise of the right is of course the burgeoning of anti-immigration sentiment that has handed a broad base of support to right wing groups. In Session Four, Migration/Borders, we explore the movement, policing, and deportation of migrants in multiple global locations.
Finally, in Session Five, we again take a more global approach that includes Palestine, Columbia, and Canada, and explore the relevance of participants’ research for our meta-theme, Reconsidering Resistance. Here we consider the uses and perhaps the limitations of a governmentality approach for exploring real material conditions of existence, and resistance, with the aim of making a contribution, however modest, to emancipatory politics.
Our experience in Oñati
The workshop “Governing the Political: Law and the Politics of Resistance” took place on May 17-18, 2018. The workshop brought together internationally situated scholars from a diverse range of career stages to discuss how law and social regulation can contribute to a politics of resistance and potentially inspire social and legal change. The participants engaged with research and presented work with a focus on Canada, Russia, Italy, Japan, Uganda, Palestine and Columbia. Their research addressed diverse topics as the formation of racial and sexual governance, neoliberalism, rights, risk, resilience, migration, settler colonialism, environmental governance and social movements. In particular, the papers explored queer governance in Russia, Niqabi women’s resistance, homelessness and resistance in Japan, the politics of the living will in Italy, ecogovernmentality, pedagogies of settler colonialism, hate crime and policing in Canada, racialization and conservative politics in Canada, humanitarian governance and the politics of redress, refugee governance in Uganda, the politics of return in Palestine, and the politics of the future in Black Colombian social movements.
Collectively, the work explored the relevance of these themes and diverse contexts for examining material conditions of existence and resistance, with the aim of making a contribution, however modest, to emancipatory politics. IISL provided a wonderful atmosphere for learning and thinking and our time there facilitated the burgeoning of new research relationships and friendships.