Social Text 30:2 (111)

An issue of: Social Text

Social Text 30:2 (111)
Journal Issue Pages: 136 Volume 30, Number 2 Number: 111 Published: Summer 2012 An issue of Social Text


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The Worker as Revenant: Imagining Embodied Labor in Contemporary Visualizations of Migration

Connell, L.

This essay examines a series of visual representations of illegalized migration in order to consider how they respond to the presence of labor within global systems of economic exchange. Through an examination of the aesthetic qualities of these images it suggests that the worker’s body is repeatedly represented as a kind of specter or ghost. The essay considers how far this depiction is a product of the technical limitations on imaging migrants as they covertly pass across national borders and also how far it is a result of the bureaucratic restriction upon the attempts to record such images. It concludes that these images partly demonstrate the forms of power that are exercised in policing the border, but they also question some of the key assumptions that sit at the heart of neoliberal trading regimes. In particular, the essay indicates how the separation of labor and freight, which command quite different treatment in narratives of market freedom, is undermined by the visual blending of the worker’s body with cargo. In reading these images through the figure of the ghost, the essay argues that the commoditization of labor power is made explicit by the reappearance of embodied labor in the spaces for traded goods. In such a way, these images implicitly rearticulate the Marxist critique of the commodity’s fetish-like character by highlighting the invisibilities that this involves.

The Soul of Security: Christianity, Corporatism, and Control in Postwar Guatemala

O'Neill, K. L.

Amid unprecedented rates of deportation as well as an ever-growing gang problem, bilingual call centers have become viable spaces of control in postwar Guatemala. They provide deported ex–gang members with not only well-paying jobs but also a work environment structured by Protestant images and imperatives. Be humble. Be punctual. Be patient. These corporately Christian virtues minister to the deported at every turn, inviting them to assume and become subsumed by ascetic subjectivities. These are monkish dispositions that provide a vital lynchpin between the political, the economic, and the subjective. They also coordinate (at the level of conduct) projects of capitalist accumulation with efforts at regional security. This assemblage of industries and ethics, made in the name of control, is what this article understands as the soul of security.

Dogma-Line Racism: Islamophobia and the Second Axis of Race

Medovoi, L.

This article works backward from the targeting of Muslims in the war on terror to argue that religion and race have a historical relationship more intimate than typically thought. In particular, it argues that religion is not merely one more semiotic coordinate, alongside descent, phenotype, cultural identity, through which bodies have become racially ascribed as white or nonwhite. Rather, Islamophobia demonstrates that religion (and by extension, secular "ideology") has historically generated a supplemental racial dynamic irreducible to the assignation of color. This second axis of race distinguishes between those who compose a society worth defending from those whose interior lives or mentalities count as a threat. Like the color line, this second axis of race has a venerable history as a strategy of power. It finds its origins in religious distinctions between the Christian flock and its enemies as constituted by the regime of power that Michel Foucault once called the "pastorate" of premodern Europe. With the rise of the modern governmental state, this medieval politico-theological enemy was translated in secular te

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